LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Marshawn Lynch had no time for a loose
shoelace. He was too busy carrying California to a victory in the
Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl -- and during his second touchdown run, his untied shoe stayed on him better than any BYU tackler.
"I almost, almost slipped," Lynch claimed of his 23-yard
sprint in the second quarter.
Anybody who watched his performance in the Golden Bears' 35-28
over Brigham Young probably wouldn't believe him -- but everybody
got a look at the wealth of offensive talent coming back to Cal in
Lynch rushed for career highs of 195 yards and three touchdowns
to win the MVP award, and DeSean Jackson caught two scoring passes
before Cal's defense held off Brigham Young on Thursday night in an
entertaining meeting of two programs with big aspirations for next
Steve Levy passed for 228 yards in his second career start for
the Golden Bears (8-4), who hung on against BYU's fourth-quarter
comeback in a high-octane game featuring 915 total yards.
"We didn't want to go into this offseason with a negative,
because we grew up so much this year," said Jackson, who capped
his impressive freshman season with six catches for 130 yards.
"They're an up-and-coming team, but so are we."
Cal took a 21-point lead into the final quarter after Lynch's
35-yard scoring run and Jackson's exceptional 22-yard diving TD
catch in the third. But BYU quarterback John Beck responded with
scoring passes to Jonny Harline and Todd Watkins, whose 9-yard grab
with 5:35 left cut Cal's lead to seven points.
The Bears improbably tried a 50-yard field goal with 2:20 to
play, and Tom Schneider's kick was well short. But the Cougars
moved just 7 yards before Beck's arm was hit by Cal lineman Phillip
Mbakogu, and Daymeion Hughes intercepted the wobbling pass to seal
the Bears' second bowl victory in three postseason trips under
coach Jeff Tedford.
"It was great to see a reflection of how much we've improved
with this young team," Tedford said. "This effort was typical of
our team. It doesn't surprise me."
Beck set Las Vegas Bowl records in BYU's spread offense, going
35-for-53 for 352 yards and three TDs. In their first bowl game in
four years, the Cougars (6-6) mounted three scoring drives longer
than 90 yards and moved the ball consistently.
"It's tough to fight back like that and fall short," Beck
said. "It's tough to see the seniors end their final game like
this, but for us guys that are coming back, it looks like a bright
road for us."
The Bears' stars were the difference. Jackson scored on a
42-yard romp through the BYU secondary 3 seconds before halftime,
while Lynch had scoring runs of 3, 23 and 35 yards along with a
handful of jaw-dropping second-effort rushes. His yards and
touchdowns also were Cal bowl records.
"Cal's running backs are exceptional, not average," BYU coach
Bronco Mendenhall said. "I think our team pursued hard, did the
very best they could to get the running backs on the ground, and it
was good enough to lose the game by seven points."
Nathan Meikle had career highs with 12 catches for 93 yards for
BYU, which hasn't won a bowl game since 1996. But the season was a
success for the once-proud Cougars, who got back to the postseason
in Mendenhall's rookie season.
Most of the bowl-record crowd of 40,053 at Sam Boyd Stadium was
made up of BYU fans, but they got the biggest thrills from Lynch,
who finally had a game worthy of the hype entering his sophomore
Lynch was expected to dominate the Pac-10 this season after
averaging 8.8 yards per carry as a freshman. Lynch was undeniably
good, finishing the regular season with 1,052 yards, but he missed
two games with a broken finger and was benched during another for
"He can do anything, be anything he wants to be," Cal senior
center Marvin Philip said.
Cal scored on the game's opening drive when Lynch followed
Philip, a Mormon with extensive family ties to BYU, into the end
zone. The Cougars finally got going late in the first quarter with
a 15-play, 92-yard drive culminating in Curtis Brown's 19-yard TD
After Lynch's shoelace shuffle, BYU tied it on Fahu Tahi's
3-yard scoring run 38 seconds before halftime, capping a 91-yard
drive in just five plays.
But the Bears got a long kickoff return and a pass-interference
call before Jackson, who didn't arrive in Las Vegas until Monday
night because of finals, ran a simple hook pattern and eluded three
defenders for a score.