Bears' defense holds in taming of Wildcats

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Print Comments 
Font | Size:

Given the challenge lurking - a Stanford offense tossing out 50-plus points practically every week - Cal's defense chose an ideal time to play one of its best games of the season Saturday.



More Sports

Fan Shop:
Get your

The Bears churned out a 24-16 victory over No. 18 Arizona, mostly because their rejuvenated defense stymied the top-ranked offense in the Pac-10. Cal twice stuffed late Wildcats drives to preserve the win before a boisterous crowd of 53,347 at Memorial Stadium.

Shane Vereen, starting in place of the injured Jahvid Best, gained 159 yards on 30 carries to spark the offense. Vereen doggedly chipped away throughout the game, then busted loose for a 61-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left to stretch Cal's lead to eight points.

The Wildcats still had hope because the Bears botched the extra-point attempt, squandering a chance to essentially cement the outcome. But their defense stiffened, a recurring theme Saturday - and a surprising theme, considering how much Cal has struggled on defense this season.

"As a defense, we had a lot of fun," linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "We were being really vocal, jumping around out there. We felt unstoppable. Everything was clicking."

Arizona, now 6-3 overall and 4-2 in Pac-10 play, arrived with Rose Bowl hopes and a gaudy average of 448.6 yards per game on offense. The Wildcats managed only 274 on Saturday, as Cal's defense - utterly overwhelmed last week against Oregon State - rose to the occasion, especially in the secondary.

The Bears even sacked Arizona quarterback Nick Foles three times, all in the second half. That counts as a Herculean feat, because Foles - who releases the ball quickly, like a gunslinger - had been sacked only four times all season before Saturday.

"The defense just played unbelievably," coach Jeff Tedford said.

Cal (7-3 and 4-3) had played so badly in last week's dispiriting, 31-14 loss to Oregon State, it was easy to envision an all-too-familiar, late-season slide. The Bears let Beavers quarterback Sean Canfield shred them through the air, put together little offense of their own and then watched as Best, their best player, went down with a scary concussion.

The task down the stretch, already daunting with Arizona in town, seemed to grow when Stanford steamed to its 55-21 victory over USC earlier Saturday. A loss to Arizona would have sent the Bears staggering into next week's Big Game against Toby Gerhart and Co.

But the mood brightened, naturally, after Cal held off Arizona.

"It's great for our players to go into the Big Game with a win, given the way Stanford is playing," Tedford said.

Tedford did not know the final score of Stanford-USC at the time. Told it was 55-21, he paused and said, "So we better be ready."

The Bears caught several breaks Saturday, none bigger than a huge mistake by Foles with about two minutes left. Cal led 18-16 then, after Giorgio Tavecchio kicked his fourth field goal of the game. Arizona promptly marched into field-goal range, with 3rd-and-3 at Cal's 25-yard line.

Foles' pass was deflected by defensive lineman Tyson Alualu - and Foles caught the deflection, rolled right and threw another pass (which he completed). That's not allowed, of course; he was flagged for an illegal forward pass, a penalty marked 5 yards back from the spot of the foul, plus a loss of down.

So, suddenly, Arizona faced 4th-and-17 at Cal's 39-yard line, out of field-goal range. Foles threw an incomplete pass, Vereen took off on the next play, and Cal was in business.

"The ball ricochets," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said of Boles' penalty. "It was just a mistake. It was a natural reaction."

Cal overcame its share of mistakes in sneaking away with this win. Quarterback Kevin Riley, who had thrown three interceptions all season, tossed two in the third quarter alone Saturday. And both of them were ugly.

First, he underthrew Nyan Boateng, who had slipped behind Arizona's secondary near the goal line. Then, on first down at the Wildcats' 16-yard line late in the quarter, Riley made an even bigger mistake - he tried to throw the ball away and instead lofted a terrible pass, which Arizona's Joe Perkins happily swiped.

But the Bears persevered, thanks mostly to the sturdy work of their defense. It was not nearly as splashy as Stanford's eye-catching romp, but Cal offered no complaints, especially with Best standing on the sideline watching.

He saw his good buddy Vereen take full advantage of his opportunity, however temporary, to become the No. 1 back.

"Shane was a workhorse," Tedford said. "I've said it many times, how fortunate we are to have two quality running backs like Jahvid and Shane. They're equally capable of making big plays at any time."

E-mail Ron Kroichick at rkroichick@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Subscribe to the San Francisco Chronicle

Subscribe to the San Francisco Chronicle and get a gift:


Print

Comments


advertisement | your ad here

Bay Recruiter Top Jobs

SENIOR

PRODUCT MANAGER Company StubHub

SENIOR

GLOBAL ANALYTICS MANAGER Company

SENIOR

SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS

SHIPPING

ANALYTICS MANAGER Company eBay

SOFTWARE

ENGINEER Company eTouch Location

SOFTWARE

ENGINEER Company eTouch Location

SOFTWARE

BI SOFTWARE ENGINEER Company

Yahoo! HotJobs

Real Estate


Featured Realestate

Search Real Estate »


Cars

Tom and Ray say wife is right on this one

Dear Tom and Ray: My husband actually said this: "If you ask Click and Clack, and they say I did something wrong, I'll stop doing it."


Featured Vehicle

Search Cars »


Jobs

Search Jobs »

Advertisers