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Arizona claims wild victory over bewildered Bears

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Monday November 18, 2002

Last week, there were rumors several Arizona players would boycott Saturday’s game against Cal after a near-mutiny against head coach John Mackovic. But in the end, it was the Cal secondary that didn’t show up to play. 

Arizona quarterback Jason Johnson threw for a school-record 492 yards as his team overcame a complete absence of a running game to get its first Pac-10 win of the season, 52-41, over the Bears. Johnson’s favorite target, wide receiver Bobby Wade, had 11 catches for a career-high 222 yards, while wideout Andrae Thurman had nine receptions for 151 yards as they tore into the Cal defensive backs for huge gains. 

The Wildcats (4-7 overall, 1-6 Pac-10) won despite running for negative yards in the game. They had run for just 48 yards in their first six conference games, but no other opponent allowed them the kind of freedom in the passing game the Bears did. 

“I don’t think [Arizona] played any better; we just didn’t show up,” Cal cornerback James Bethea said. “We had great practices all week, but when it came to gametime, we just didn’t do anything.” 

Saturday’s game was filled with miscues by both teams. Each fumbled the ball four times, with Johnson throwing one interception and Cal quarterback Kyle Boller gave out two, both by Arizona linebacker Ray Wells. Both teams scored a touchdown off of a blocked kick, and Cal (6-5, 3-4) committed nine penalties for 85 yards. Cal’s LeShaun Ward returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score, while Wells returned one of his picks for a touchdown. 

But the biggest gaffe of the day belonged to Cal linebacker Calvin Hosey. He earned a reprieve when a third-quarter kickoff hit him in the foot, as teammate Kristian Eriksen recovered the loose ball. But incredibly, a fourth-quarter kickoff hit Hosey in the foot again, this time bouncing right back into the arms of Arizona kicker Ryan Slack.  

With the Wildcats having just scored a touchdown to go ahead 38-34, they used the stroke of luck to get into the end zone again quickly, a fade pass to Wade over Cal cornerback Jemeel Powell that made the score 45-34 with less than nine minutes remaining. Arizona scored their third touchdown of the quarter four minutes later when Beau Carr ran four yards untouched to seal an unexpected win. 

The Bears may end up as Arizona’s only Pac-10 victim for the second consecutive season, and never has a team come into Memorial Stadium with so many issues. Nearly half of the Wildcat players met with the university president last week to voice concerns over Mackovic, then reports indicated nearly a third of the team was considering refusing to travel to Saturday’s game. But while Mackovic’s team seemed energized during the game, the Bears were flat from the first whistle to the last. 

“All week long we discussed how they weren’t our issues, they were their issues,” Cal head coach Jeff Tedford said. “But I don’t know how much of that sinks in when everything’s going on.” 

The loss puts Tedford’s team in the uncomfortable position of having to beat archrival Stanford for a winning record, which would be Cal’s first since 1993. Stanford has won the last seven Big Games, and none of the current Cal players or coaches knows the feeling of taking home the Axe. 

“I get to run out of that tunnel one more time with my teammates, my buddies, my boys,” Boller said. “This will be the biggest game we’ve ever played. It should be exciting, that’s for sure.”