Bears Run Out of Lives Against Wildcats

Three Field Goals Fall Short as Arizona Scores Lone Touchdown

Photo: Shane Vereen compiled 102 yards on 27 carries, hitting the triple-digit plateau for the seventh time in his career. The Bears had 262 yards of offense.
Victoria Chow/Staff
Shane Vereen compiled 102 yards on 27 carries, hitting the triple-digit plateau for the seventh time in his career. The Bears had 262 yards of offense.

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TUCSON, Ariz. - Nick Foles came to Arizona's rescue again.

The Wildcats' floppy-haired hero brought his team back to life for the second consecutive week, tossing the game's only touchdown to preserve a 10-9 win at Arizona Stadium yesterday.

Then-No. 9 Iowa had to watch Foles complete five of six passes on his game-winning drive. The unranked Cal football team (2-2, 0-1 in the Pac-10) got another punch in the stomach when he launched a 51-yard bomb to wide receiver Juron Criner.

Three plays later, the pair hooked up again - this time on an effortless strike in the end zone with 1:11 remaining. The junior wideout had been battling turf toe since facing the Hawkeyes, but his five receptions and 59 yards sure didn't make it look that way.

The Bears' attempt at a comeback fizzled shortly afterward. What looked like an easy catch by Marvin Jones went off his hands. Safety Joe Perkins snagged it and took off for 18 yards, the clock ticking away the entire time.

"I've never been part of a football game that hurts more than this game," safety Chris Conte said. "Not in my life, ever. This is the worst I've ever felt after a game."

The fireworks that ended it belied the defensive slugfest that bogged down the first 57 minutes. The Pac-10 entered the weekend as perhaps the nation's most pass-happy conference, with Arizona (4-0, 1-0) and Cal both averaging over 30 points per game. That stat took a hit in the warm Tucson night, the Bears settling for field goal attempts - one a 33-yarder knocked into the left post - and squandering tailback Shane Vereen's seventh career 100-yard game.

If the defense was looking for redemption, it more than earned that. Seven days completely turned around a unit that was shredded by Nevada, even with linebacker Mike Mohamed still limited by his sprained toe. There was no pistol offense to deal with this time, and the pressure forced Foles into 64.1 percent completion rate, 14 below his season average.

Conte played what may have been the best game of his life, leading the team with eight tackles and barely keeping his feet inside the end-zone sideline on an interception late in the first half. Until the final drive, that was the only series Arizona extended beyond 39 yards the entire game.

Cornerback Darian Hagan anchored the secondary with six tackles and pass break-up. Still, it was him that couldn't leap quite as high as Criner on the pivotal play.

"There's no moral victories," defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "Told the guys all week it was gonna come down to the last drive. I just knew it was going to be that kind of game."

Added Conte: "I know if we play them again we can beat them. We'd beat them nine times out of 10."

The Bears have a bye week ahead now, with 14 whole days to stew over this one until UCLA - fresh off its own monumental upset of No. 7 Texas - visits Memorial Stadium.

They'll have time to play the what-if game if they wish. They can wonder what might have been if Giorgio Tavecchio had been perfect on field goals rather than three-of-five, if Jones had reeled in the last pass to keep their hopes alive, if Mohamed and Keenan Allen had been fully healthy.

"I'd rather play," linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. "Having this happen to us, I just want to take it out on the next team."

Tags: KEVIN RILEY, JEFF TEDFORD, CAL FOOTBALL


Jack Wang covers football. Contact him at [email protected]



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