The Sun Also Sets Over Arizona

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Alex Mack and Cameron Jordan were both at Arizona Stadium on Nov. 11, 2006.

Both saw DeSean Jackson step out of bounds on what looked like a 63-yard touchdown pass from Nate Longshore that would have put the Cal football team ahead late in the fourth quarter.

Both saw Longshore throw an interception on the Bears' final drive.

And both witnessed the Arizona faithful rushing the field after watching their Wildcats upset yet another top-ranked opponent under the Tucson sun.

Of course, their vantage points were a bit different. Mack was in the trenches, while Jordan-a Chandler High senior on his official Arizona recruiting trip-was in the bleachers.

So maybe that's why their reactions to the question of whether or not they're thinking about that game in preparation for Saturday's return to Tucson were markedly different.

"Really, the only play I truly remember is DeSean stepping out of bounds," Jordan said. "Then, of course, I was in the locker room at U of A, where everybody was going crazy."

And Mack?

"Yeah," he said, with a finality implying that expanding on his answer wasn't necessary.

He did go on, though, saying that coach Jeff Tedford promised this year's team a highlight video of the Wildcat fan base spilling onto the stadium turf.

It's a sight that has become common at Arizona Stadium in the last few years, so much so that the mood in unranked Arizona's locker room after the win over then-No. 8 Cal was completely void of the emotion that usually accompanies the upset-surprise.

"I think they sort of expected to win," Jordan said. "Just because they were at home."

Tucson, Ariz., seems like a pretty harmless place, as long as you're not a snowman. But for the past three years, it's also been the place where Pac-10 title hopes go to die.

Three years ago, No. 7 UCLA came crashing down to earth in the final month of the season with a 38-point loss to the Wildcats. Last season, then-No. 2 Oregon fell from grace in a painful 34-24 defeat.

Both games, incidentally, ended with the field covered by Arizona fans.

And in 2006, a 24-20 loss to Arizona snapped the Bears' eight-game winning streak and spoiled their undefeated conference record, which took another hit the next weekend against USC and led to a shared Pac-10 championship instead of an outright one.

"Remembering that we lost to these guys two years ago and it really spoiled a Pac-10 championship for us, it brings up some bad memories," Mack said. "So more reason to work hard."

Right now, it's a little too early to be talking about a Pac-10 title, especially with the way that conference teams have beaten up on each other in the first half of the season.

But the fact is that, as in 2006, Cal is the only undefeated team remaining in the conference entering its game with the Wildcats.

And should the Bears shut down Willie Tuitama and Arizona for the second season in a row-with home games against struggling UCLA and Oregon scheduled for the next two weekends-they could very well make the trip to the Coliseum on Nov. 8 under the circumstances they didn't have two years ago.

That is, if they can first solve the mystery that is Tucson.

When asked why Arizona Stadium has seemed so hard to play in, Mack was brief once again.

"It's hot," he said. "Other than that, it's just an away game with fans that are going to make a lot of noise."

That bodes well for Cal.

Even in the desert, the sun's going down by 7 p.m.


Rush the field with Matt at [email protected]

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