BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- A few days after John Mackovic's players
nearly brought him down, they hoisted their coach on their
shoulders to celebrate the most improbable development yet in
Arizona's dramatic week.
Jason Johnson passed for a school-record 492 yards and threw two
of his four touchdown passes to Justin Levasseur as Arizona snapped
a six-game losing streak Saturday with a 52-41 victory over
California after a near-mutiny by half of Mackovic's team.
Nobody was sure what to expect from the Wildcats (4-7, 1-6
Pacific-10) this weekend after 40 players met with university president
Peter Likins on Tuesday night to express their distaste for
Mackovic's abrasive verbal style and other concerns.
Instead of resigning, as many university insiders thought he
would, Mackovic apologized for several mistakes during a tearful
news conference. Three days later, the Wildcats played with more
life than they've showed all season and scored more points than
they managed in the previous four weeks combined in a cathartic,
''They showed unbelievable courage, character, heart,
everything,'' said Mackovic, who got a brief postgame ride on two
freshmen's shoulders before hugging athletic director Jim
Livingood. ''I don't think they'll ever forget this game. It will
not necessarily be the biggest victory they ever have, but it's
something they'll use as a lesson for a long time.''
There was little trace of any bad feelings in the visitors'
locker room at Memorial Stadium, where the players led a jubilant
cheer that brought tears to Johnson's eyes.
''We've been through so much this week that we felt like this
game was about coming together and playing for ourselves,'' said
Johnson, who broke the school record he set earlier this year
despite a bum ankle and several bone-jarring hits. ''For a lot of
these guys in Division I football, the field is their refuge. You
can put everything behind you out there.''
Bobby Wade caught 11 passes for a career-high 222 yards as the
Wildcats finished strong in a wacky victory over Cal (6-5, 3-4)
that included touchdown returns of an interception, a blocked punt
and a blocked field goal.
Levasseur, a backup tight end who was one of Mackovic's biggest
detractors, caught his first two touchdown passes of the season, including
the go-ahead score with 12:37 left. Earlier this week, Mackovic
apologized to Levasseur for calling the tight end ''a disgrace to
''Coach said this was our game, and we should play for
ourselves,'' said Levasseur, a native of nearby Antioch. ''I always
try to put on a good show for my family, and they were all here.
That's what this game was about.''
Though his numbers reflect Arizona's near-complete abandonment
of a running game, Johnson had his third 400-yard game of the
season, completing 31 of 45 passes. He outplayed Cal star Kyle
Boller, who was 22-for-45 for 298 yards and two interceptions.
''I don't know if Jason can play any better,'' Mackovic said.
''He was incredibly focused and sharp. We're not very balanced, and
we know that, but if we do what we want to do, we can win.''
The Golden Bears have made a remarkable turnaround under Jeff Tedford, in his first year at Berkeley, but they awoke memories of the 1-10 team of last season in a discouraging defensive performance. Their
terrible pass coverage cost them a chance to clinch their first
winning season since 1993.
''All week long, we tried to talk about how they're not our
issues, they're (Arizona's) issues,'' Tedford said. ''But you don't
know how much of it sinks into the players when they're seeing the
media and the interviews and reading stuff. I'm not going to blame
it on that, though. It's our job to get them ready to play.''
Arizona's Lance Relford caught a 31-yard touchdown pass and later
blocked a punt that was returned by Lamon Means for a score. Andrae
Thurman caught nine passes for 151 yards as the Wildcats ran for
minus-1 yards, but shredded the Bears' secondary.
Arizona, which ran for 48 yards in its first six conference
games combined, avoided matching the longest losing streak in
school history. Ray Wells intercepted two passes, returning one for
Trailing 34-31 early in the fourth quarter, Arizona went back
ahead on Levasseur's 9-yard touchdown catch, then recovered a low
line-drive kickoff that ricocheted off one of the Bears near
midfield. Wade made a 7-yard touchdown catch moments later, and Arizona
followed with another scoring drive capped by Beau Carr's 7-yard touchdown run.
LaShaun Ward returned a kickoff for a touchdown and caught a
scoring pass for Cal, while James Bethea returned a blocked field
goal 60 yards for another touchdown.
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