By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
It wasn't pretty, but it was a win.
That was the overall sentiment of the Arizona football team after Saturday's 20-15 victory over California Ÿ one that included three blocked UA extra points and one safety, and will certainly go down in history as one of the strangest for head coach Dick Tomey.
"Well, this game certainly made the extra-point attempt exciting again," Tomey said.
While the circus sideshow was amusing, what was important for the Wildcats was getting the victory Ÿ especially since they have next weekend off.
"It's really nice to have a win going with you into the bye week," Tomey said. "Because if you don't, you have to think about the damn thing for two weeks."
In front of 44,561 fans at Arizona Stadium, the Wildcats started the game slow, but scored a barrage of points in the second quarter that ranks among one of Arizona's top offensive explosions this season. It started after Cal linebacker Duane Clemons sacked quarterback Dan White, knocking his helmet off and sending him to the bench.
Enter Brady Batten, who had seen sufficient playing time during only one other game this season: last week against Southern Cal, when he orchestrated Arizona's only touchdown drive in the waning moments of the game.
Determined to build on that success, his first pass was a 26-yard completion to Richard Dice. After an 11-yard completion to Rodney Williams, he went back Dice, who caught a one-handed, 40-yard touchdown pass, giving Arizona the lead 6-3.
"When Dan went out, everybody took it (upon) themselves to make Brady feel as comfortable as he could in the pocket," Dice said. "He's a good player and made some good plays for us."
But Arizona was not done yet. After having the extra-point attempt blocked, the Wildcat special teams made amends by forcing a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Twelve seconds later, running back Gary Taylor put Arizona up 12-3 with his first rushing touchdown of the season.
"It was great to finally get in the end zone," Taylor said. "I had really felt contained in the last four games."
And after another blocked extra point, the Golden Bears gave the two points right back, as kickoff returner Je'Rod Cherry stepped out of the end zone, then back in, giving Arizona a safety. Those two points ended a Wildcat run of 14 points in just 15 seconds.
Arizona scored once more in the second quarter on a touchdown pass from Batten to Dice. But then the Wildcats, proving true to form, shanked a third extra-point attempt. Kicker Jon Prasuhn booted the ball into the arms of Cal safety Marquis Smith, who avoided a tackle by Prasuhn and raced the length of the field to score a defensive two-point conversion.
"I've never seen that before," UA defensive end Tedy Bruschi said, laughing. "I felt bad at the time and was cheering on Jon, but he couldn't quite catch him."
"I think having our extra point blocked and returned for two points will go down as an incredible occurrence," Tomey said.
Going into the second half up 20-5, Arizona was looking to give the Bears a final knockout blow. But Cal was not willing to throw in the towel just yet. After an early third-quarter Cal field goal, quarterback Pat Barnes connected with Bobby Shaw for a 31-yard score. The touchdown closed the score to 20-15 with one quarter remaining, but Arizona held off Cal and pulled off the victory.
"It was a gutty performance by our guys," Tomey said. "We fought well. We are beginning to develop a tough mentality, which is something every team needs to be successful."
But the big story of the game was the play by Batten, who completed 14-of-23 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Nearly as important as his throwing was his ability to scramble, keeping plays alive by buying extra time.
"I go on my feel of the situation," Batten said. "The important thing is to trust yourself when scrambling. Sometimes I'll go early and maybe miss something, but it feels right at the time."
Batten's play was not the only positive the Wildcats had going. Saturday's game also marked the resurfacing of Arizona's running attack. Spearheading the return was Gary Taylor, who ran for 151 yards on 27 carries and showed signs of becoming the big-time back he was touted as being earlier this season.
"I think the biggest positive for us was being able to run the football," Tomey said. "Gary really did a great job for us."
But the victory did come at a price: The Wildcats suffered more injuries to an already depleting offensive line. Ian McCutcheon and Mani Ott, two of Arizona's most consistent linemen, left the game with a knee and an ankle injury, respectively. The severity of the two injuries are unknown, but Tomey said he is hoping both will be ready for UCLA on Oct. 14.
"We lost Mani and Ian and are unsure of their status," Tomey said. "But Dan White should be fine for UCLA and is still our number-one guy."
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