By Craig Sanders
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The California Golden Bears would have been all smiles after Saturday's game against Arizona except for one small thing: they lost 20-15.
The Bears ended the game almost as encouraged by their signs of productivity as disheartened by their defeat. For a team that had lost to San Diego State 33-7 in its first week and followed that with a 25-24 loss to Fresno State, Cal's showing against its Pacific 10 Conference rival gave the team almost as many good things to think about as bad.
"I feel bad about losing the game, but I'm not discouraged in terms of dishonor," Cal head coach Keith Gilbertson said. "In fact, I'm very encouraged. We had some sparks, especially in the second half. I thought everything that could go wrong did in the second quarter."
"There are some pros and cons to it," Cal running back Reynard Rutherford said. "The main thing is that (the) guys didn't quit. There were some negatives Ÿ we had turnovers and mental breakdowns Ÿ but we never gave up and that shows we are gaining maturity."
Arizona turned the game upside-down when it scored three times in 15 seconds in the second quarter to take a 14-3 lead. A 40-yard pass play from Brady Batten to Richard Dice was followed 11 seconds later by a Cal fumble and a 13-yard Gary Taylor run. Four seconds after that, Cal's Je'Rod Cherry received the kickoff, stepped out of the end zone, then downed the ball back in it, giving the Wildcats a safety and an 11-point lead.
"Three plays back-to-back-to-back," Rutherford said. "To see the score 20-3 and knowing they really didn't get to do much was very shocking. We're not going to win until we are mature, until we grow up."
The Bears, who piled up 346 yards against the Arizona defense, out-scored the Wildcats 10-0 and held them to 122 net yards in the second half. With a pair of running backs moving the ball effectively on the ground and a quarterback throwing precise passes, some of the Golden Bears said they felt they cost themselves the victory.
"In about four plays we lost the game," Cal outside linebacker Duane Clemons said. "If it weren't for those mistakes it could have been a blowout the other way. We have to eliminate the few little mental errors that cost us the game."
The Bears have seen this happen to them before. Last season, their game with Arizona was decided when the Wildcats' Mike Scurlock intercepted a pass and returned it for a 97-yard touchdown.
"It's disgusting. It's the same old thing every time," Rutherford said. "We gave them the ball two times in a row inside the 20. You can't win games that way."
With 110 yards on 17 carries, Rutherford joined Georgia Tech's C.J. Williams as the only backs in three years to gain at least 100 yards rushing against Arizona.
"I'm not disappointed in my game," Rutherford said, "but I am disappointed that we didn't win."
Bears' quarterback Pat Barnes was sharp all night, hitting 13 of 26 passes - of which six attempts were dropped Ÿ for 196 yards. Taking a page from Southern Cal's playbook, the Golden Bears utilized a quick passing scheme in which the quarterback took a three-step drop to alleviate pressure. The dropped passes, however, cost them in the first half.
"It's out of my hands once I release the ball," Barnes said. "Who knows what could have happened? The thing is, we started making some plays in the second half to get back in the game. I really thought we were going to come back and win it."
Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, the Bears' top receiver, caught all of Barnes' first-half balls and two in the second half to finish the game with five receptions for 93 yards. His biggest catch, however, was in the fourth quarter when he beat his defender and caught the ball in the end zone. Unfortunately for the Bears, a holding penalty was called, nullifying the score.
"I was jumping up and down," Uwaezuoke said. "Then I saw the flag and my heart just dropped. I was just saying, 'Why, why is this, man?' It's the same thing day in and day out. Hopefully, we get it together and take care of business."
"I was very encouraged by our play," Gilbertson said. "We played a solid game in all aspects Ÿ running, throwing, defense Ÿ but the bottom line is we didn't do what we needed to do to win."
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