BERKELEY, Calif. —The Arizona Wildcats are headed to a bowl game.
The UA topped Cal 33-28 this afternoon at Memorial Stadium to move to 6-2 on the season. The six wins ensure Rich Rodriguez’s team will have a postseason appearance for the second straight year. Arizona has now won three in a row after starting 0-2 in Pac-12 play.
Today’s win over Cal was a back-and-forth affair for all four quarters before Arizona held on in the fourth quarter for the victory.
“It was never easy,” UA quarterback B.J. Denker said. “That team is a lot better than 1-7 and they’re definitely better than 1-8.”
Cal got the scoring started when it engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive on its first possession. It was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jared Goff to running back Khalf Muhammad. The score gave Cal a 7-0 lead.
Arizona stopped Cal on a 3rd and 20, but safety Anthony Lopez was flagged for pass interference, giving the Golden Bears a fresh set of downs. Six plays later, Goff found Muhammad for the opening touchdown.
Arizona responded to Cal’s opening drive with a nine-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in a nine-yard touchdown run from Denker. Denker was 3 for 4 for 26 yards on the opener and added the nine-yard rush.
After a couple of non-scoring drives by both teams, Arizona drove deep into Cal territory and went for it on 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line. Denker handed it off to Ka’Deem Carey, but Carey was stuffed and Arizona turned the ball over on downs.
But on the next play, Cal running back Darren Ervin was tackled in the end zone by Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright and Arizona was awarded a safety to give the UA a 9-7 lead.
Arizona opened the scoring in the second quarter when Jake Smith nailed a 53-yard field goal. It marked the longest field goal by an Arizona kicker since Nick Folk hit a from 53 yards out in 2004. That field goal gave the Wildcats a 12-7 lead.
A little more than four minutes later, Arizona extended its lead when Denker found Nate Phillips for a 21-yard touchdown pass to increase the UA’s lead to 19-7.
Cal came right back and put together an eight-play, 63-yard drive that resulted in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Kenny Lawler to make it 19-14.
Both teams traded missed field goals in the final minute of the half.
Arizona opened the third quarter with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a one-yard touchdown run from B.J. Denker to give Arizona a 26-14 lead. The big play of that drive was a 60-yard pass play from Denker to Terrence Miller on a screen pass.
Cal again answered back when Goff and Lawler hooked up again, this time for a three-yard score. That touchdown brought Cal to within five at 26-21.
Denker got the lead back to 12 though when he scored from 11 yards out on a keeper to give Arizona a 33-21 lead.
Lawler again burned the Arizona secondary when he hauled in a 29-yard catch from Goff for a touchdown with 1:42 remaining. That cut the lead to 33-28, but Cal’s ensuing onside kick was recovered by Arizona’s Jonathan McKnight.
Denker finished the win with 24 for 38 through the air for 261 yards and a touchdown. He added three rushing scores.
Ka’Deem Carey rushed for more than 100 yards in his 11th straight game, marking a new school record. He finished with 152 yards on 32 carries.
“Cal did a good job of loading up the box,” Carey said. “It seemed like they were really focusing on stopping me, but you come into games expecting that and you adjust. B.J. did a good job of keeping it on some and making some big runs at the end of the game.”
Goff was 34 for 56 for 289 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss for Cal.
The Wildcats return to Arizona Stadium a week from today to host UCLA at 8 p.m.
"I think we’re pretty pleased with where we’re at," Rodriguez said. "We still have an opportunity to control our own destiny. Now it’s a monumental task with who we have coming up in the next four weeks. We have a whole lot to play for."