California’s Victory Is Good to the Last Drop
Geoff McArthur ignored his separated shoulder, reaching high above his head to snare California’s go-ahead touchdown pass.
A few anxious minutes later, Oregon’s final throw ricocheted off Keith Allen’s hands and dropped to the grass, ending the Ducks’ upset bid.
After 853 yards of offense, everything came down to two passes -- and the fourth-ranked Golden Bears caught the ball and the breaks.
McArthur caught eight passes for 121 yards and two scores, and Cal stopped the Ducks near midfield with 1:39 left in a 28-27 victory Saturday.
With Orange Bowl scouts watching closely, the Bears, who improved to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the Pacific 10 Conference, responded to their first adversity in a month with a solid second-half performance. But they also needed the luck of Allen’s crucial drop to avoid a loss that could have crushed their bowl championship series dreams.
“Winning the close games is everything,” said McArthur, who became Cal’s career leader in receptions. “That one could have gone either way, depending on the fourth quarter. We got a good break at the end, but if he’d caught that ball, who knows?”
Aaron Rodgers passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns, and J.J. Arrington ran for 188 yards and a score for the Bears, who fell behind, 27-14, in the second quarter.
McArthur’s wordless communication with Rodgers set up the Bears’ final score on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 13:25 to play. In the huddle before the play, Rodgers simply looked at McArthur -- and the receiver split two defenders to receive the near-perfect pass.
But they couldn’t enjoy it until Allen bobbled the final throw that could have put the Ducks well within field-goal range. After Cal’s Tom Schneider missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt with 4:20 left, Kellen Clemens drove Oregon 36 yards to the Cal 41 but threw four straight incompletions.
“I was standing on the bench, and they ran a play that we have, so I knew [Allen] would be open,” Rodgers said.
Clemens threw four touchdown passes in the first half for the Ducks (5-4, 4-2), who seemed headed for an upset after a dominant first half.
But two key mistakes haunted them: Jared Siegel missed an extra-point attempt in the first quarter, and Allen’s drop doomed them, disappointing the Ducks’ large fan contingent at Memorial Stadium.
Cal ended a seven-game losing streak against Oregon with Coach Jeff Tedford’s first victory over the school where he served as Mike Bellotti’s offensive coordinator for four years.
“I only had time to go ‘Whoo!’ when it landed,” Tedford said of Oregon’s final play. “It was a gut-wrencher. Winning the close games is the difference between programs that have success and don’t.”