Golden Bears jump to 28-0 halftime lead
Coming into Saturday's contest with No. 7 California, the Arizona football team knew it couldn't make mistakes if it wanted to knock off a top-10 team.
The Wildcats made several costly errors, and the Golden Bears proved they are one of the nation's top teams in its 38-0 win Saturday at Arizona Stadium in front of an announced Family Weekend crowd of 52,049.
The shutout loss was Arizona's second home shutout loss in as many years and their sixth consecutive loss of head coach Mike Stoops' first season.
"Obviously we got beat by a much better football team in pretty much all areas," Stoops said. "We're not a very consistent football team on either side. We just don't seem able to get a break at this point."
Behind the right arm of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Bears out-gained Arizona 459-245 and built a 28-0 halftime lead.
Rodgers finished the game 20 for 27 for 235 yards with three scores and two picks.
"I thought Rodgers was good. He's a talented player," Stoops said. "His precision, his accuracy was second to none."
Junior safety Darrell Brooks and freshman cornerback Antoine Cason said Rodgers was one of the best quarterbacks they've faced.
Cason was one of very few bright spots for the Wildcats on Saturday. He intercepted two passes, both tipped passes.
"I've been telling everybody that boy can play," Brooks said. "When he's comfortable, he goes out there and lets it rip and he makes big plays. He's definitely holding his own out there."
Those picks were Arizona's first interceptions since the Wildcats' first game of the season against Northern Arizona.
"We need turnovers," Cason said. "Turnovers help us win games."
The Wildcats came out of the first quarter trailing the Bears 7-0, but several mistakes put Arizona down 28-0 at half.
The Wildcats committed six penalties for 62 yards in the second frame alone, the most glaring a 15-yard personal foul penalty by senior tight end Steve Fleming that moved Arizona from Cal's 14-yard line out to the 29.
Two plays later, sophomore Nick Folk's 45-yard field goal attempt was blocked. The attempt was as close as Arizona would come to scoring.
"We had a couple tough breaks, and we weren't able to capitalize and weren't able to execute. Silly penalties kind of hurt us all day long," Fleming said.
Rodgers threw three touchdowns in the Wildcats' fatal second quarter, and Arizona never recovered.
"We'd fight, hang in there and then the dam kind of opens up right before half," Stoops said. "Penalties were tough. A couple penalties led to some points for them and not for us. We're our own worst enemy sometimes."
Cal running back J.J. Arrington and receiver Geoff McArthur also hurt the Wildcats. Arrington, the Pacific 10 Conference's leading rusher, gained 135 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown, and McArthur caught six balls for 94 yards and a score.
McArthur became Cal's career leader in receiving yards on his 11-yard touchdown.
Saturday's game marked freshman quarterback Richard Kovalcheck's first collegiate start. He ended 13 of 32 for 159 yards and threw one interception.
"I thought Richard was OK. He did some good things," Stoops said. "Our passing game still needs to drastically improve for us to make the progress we need to make."
"I thought he played pretty well," Fleming said. "Obviously the offense didn't do what we needed to do to get it done, but overall he found his receivers pretty well."
This is the second season in a row Arizona has started a season 1-6, but the team remains optimistic that things will get better.
"You just have to look to the future and know it starts now," Fleming said. "It's been a familiar place for some of the seniors. The only difference is there's guys all throughout the team that care and a coaching staff that cares. Everything's in place to turn it around, and we have to start now."
"We just have to keep going," Cason said. "We can't take these losses and put our heads down. We have to keep our heads up and keep playing as hard as we can play."
Junior running back Mike Bell led the Arizona rushing attack with 99 yards on 17 carries ... Senior linebacker Kirk Johnson led the Wildcat defense with 10 tackles ... UA struggled again on third down, going 3 for 15. They're last in the Pac-10 in that category at 32 percent ... Junior punter Danny Baugher punted nine times with a 40.3 yard average ... Arizona is 1-16 in its last 17 home Pac-10 games. They are 4-25 in the Pac-10 the last three seasons combined ... The Wildcats play host to Oregon State at 4 p.m. next Saturday as part of homecoming festivities on the UA campus.