EUGENE, Ore. – Joey Harrington ran for two second-half touchdowns and passed for another as No. 6 Oregon clinched at least a tie for the Pac-10 title by rallying to beat California 25-17 Saturday.
The Ducks (9-1, 7-0 Pac-10) can earn their first Rose Bowl berth since the 1994 season by beating rival Oregon State this Saturday.
Kyle Boller completed 15 of 39 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown as Cal (3-7, 2-5) nearly pulled off a huge upset despite its usual offensive struggles.
Harrington was 20-of-35 for 252 yards in an erratic performance, but his 29-yard scoring pass to Keenan Howry with 12:38 to play was the difference. Howry reached up and hauled the pass in with his fingertips to give the Ducks an 18-17 lead.
Oregon added another score after the Golden Bears botched a punt, giving the Ducks the ball at the Cal 14. Five plays later, Harrington’s 1-yard run made it 25-17 lead with 4:48 to go.
Cal got the ball back twice more, but Boller threw an interception and was unable to move the team on the last possession.
Oregon won its 20th straight home game and 15th of 16 games overall.
For the third straight week, however, Oregon had to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter to win.
Geoff McArthur scored on a 63-yard pass play to put the Golden Bears ahead 17-12 with 3:36 left in the third. The teams traded punts, and Harrington began the Ducks’ first possession of the fourth quarter by hitting Marshaun Tucker in stride for a 52-yard gain.
Two plays later, Howry gained a step on cornerback Jemeel Powell, and Harrington led him perfectly for the go-ahead score.
Last week, Oregon scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie Washington State in the fourth before winning in overtime; the week before at Arizona State, Harrington threw two touchdown passes in the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation, and the Ducks prevailed 56-55 in two overtimes.
Cal came in with the lowest-ranked offense in the Pac-10, but neither team could move the ball early. They combined for only 60 rushing yards on 29 carries in the first half.
Cal took a 7-0 lead just 2:18 into the game on a 1-yard dive over the top by Joe Igber. The play was set up by a 26-yard pass from Boller over the middle to a diving Phillip Pipersburg.
Cal started the drive at the Oregon 27 after the Ducks lost 20 yards on their opening possession, shanked a 33-yard punt and then got called for a 15-yard penalty.
The Bears did little to build on their lead, however, gaining just 53 yards on their next five possessions of the half.
Harrington threw long and behind his receivers the entire first half, but he got the Ducks in position for two field goals by Josh Frankel, from 34 and 43 yards.
A 31-yard run by Harrington on third and 8 set up the latter kick to cut the lead to 7-6 at halftime.
Harrington directed the Ducks on a 75-yard, seven-play drive, which ended with him scrambling a 2 yards to put Oregon back ahead 12-7 with 10:19 left in the third. The 2-point conversion pass failed.
With Igber getting stuffed, Cal went to third-string tailback Saleem Muhammad, who ran three straight times for 36 yards to loosen up the Bears’ ground game. A 15-yard run by Igber moved the ball to the Oregon 21, but Cal couldn’t get closer and settled for Mark Jensen’s 38-yard field goal.