Bears hoping to avoid another Arizona shocker
BERKELEY, Calif. -- The last time Arizona visited California, John Mackovic had promised to be more receptive to his players.
Though the coach started listening, he didn't start winning.
Last year, the Wildcats got a shocking 52-41 victory at Memorial Stadium just days after Mackovic narrowly kept his job after a near-mutiny by his players.
The respite didn't even last until Arizona's next trip to Cal on Saturday. Mackovic was fired last month and replaced by defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who still hasn't picked up his first win at Arizona (1-6, 0-3 Pac-10).
Meanwhile, Cal (3-5, 1-2) is running out of chances to secure its second straight winning season under coach Jeff Tedford. After consecutive losses to Oregon State and UCLA, the Golden Bears must win four of their last five games to become bowl-eligible.
A win over the Wildcats would be a great help, but Tedford's players learned last season to be wary of Arizona under any circumstances. Team morale seems to be improved under Hankwitz's direction, even if the record isn't.
"I don't see too much turmoil now with the Wildcats," Tedford said. "When they came to Berkeley last year, there was a lot of hype and media attention surrounding them, but now it seems like they have a new life. It seems as if they are out there having fun."
The Wildcats were off last week, and they used their bye to heal and to reaffirm their new commitment to the running game. Hankwitz and his offensive coaches claim to be committed to establishing the run with tailback Clarence Farmer -- though Hankwitz also is mindful of Arizona's incredible 492 yards passing against Cal last season.
"We got a lot accomplished," Hankwitz said of the bye. "We also gave the players an extended break at the end of the week to give them a chance to get healed up. We have had numerous guys playing each week with nagging things, (but) the injury report looks good right now. It was a good break, both mentally and physically."
Both teams enter the game fresh off losses to UCLA. Arizona fell to the Bruins two weeks ago, while the Golden Bears returned from their bye with a 23-20 overtime loss in Pasadena.
Farmer and Mike Bell both were effective rushers against UCLA, and Hankwitz wants to see more of the same. With both teams fielding shaky defenses, Arizona's coaches figure they could be in another shootout in Berkeley.
"I was pleased with the way our offensive line blocked in the last game, and our backs did a better job of running downhill," Hankwitz said. "I told the players that consistency is a true measure of greatness. You can play one good game, but good players have more than one game in a row."
Hankwitz added, "We have to show that we can run the ball more than in one game. We need to continue to be able to run it and keep the balance, and that will help make our passing game more effective."
The Bears have shown solid balance on offense, with Adimchinobe Echemandu's rushing and a solid passing game led by quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Reggie Robertson. In a familiar season-long theme, Cal dominated the Bruins statistically but couldn't execute in many crucial short-yardage and late-game situations.
"We are a good football team, and we've competed in every game we've played," Tedford said. "Five of our last six games have been decided in the last two minutes of the contest. We just need to start out faster."
Tedford has a point: The Bears have outscored their opponents in every quarter except the first this season. In their big victory over then-No. 3 USC, Cal took an early lead and never fell behind despite several comebacks by the Trojans.
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
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