BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- California's once-promising season hung
on the brink, and Joe Ayoob seemed headed for another week of
criticism on campus.
One incredible comeback with two clutch touchdown passes in the
final minutes changed all that.
Ayoob completed a 9-yard scoring pass to Lavelle Hawkins with
1:50 left, and the 25th-ranked Golden Bears survived a second-half
defensive meltdown to beat Washington State 42-38 on Saturday
"It's huge," said Ayoob, ripped by the Cal faithful following
last week's demoralizing loss to Oregon State. "It makes things a
lot easier. I don't doubt myself when it comes to the end of the
game. To overcome that and make the plays that we needed to make at
the end of the game, makes you feel good."
After Jason Hill caught three long touchdown passes from Alex
Brink on the way to a career-high 240 yards receiving for the
Cougars, Ayoob led the Golden Bears on one final drive with his top
two receivers watching from the sidelines with injuries.
He hit a wide-open Hawkins in the back of the end zone and Cal
(6-2, 3-2 Pac-10) avoided its first three-game losing streak in
coach Jeff Tedford's four-year tenure and what certainly would have
been an exit from the rankings for the first time in 21 polls since
"It would have been very easy for a team without character to
just fold and wait until next week, but you don't get that with
these guys," Tedford said. "This was the best comeback we've had
as long as we've been here. It gives you a reason to believe that
if you hang together, good things will happen."
Brink finished 18-for-39 for 423 yards and five touchdowns, and
Jerome Harrison ran for 162 yards for his 10th straight 100-yard
game, but the Cougars (3-4, 0-4) lost their fourth straight in
frustrating fashion -- blowing a double-digit lead in the second
half for the third time after starting the season 3-0.
"I don't have an answer," dejected coach Bill Doba said.
"Little mistakes give up big plays. You have to finish. You have
to have more points on the scoreboard than the other team."
Hill had his second career three-touchdown game and the teams
combined for more than 1,100 yards of total offense. Hill hauled in
second-half TD passes of 38, 62 and 38 yards -- the last of which
was tipped by cornerback Tim Mixon before finding Hill's hands for
a 32-28 lead with 3:05 left in the third.
Husain Abdallah intercepted a pass by Ayoob early in the fourth
quarter, setting up Chris Jordan's 16-yard touchdown catch, but the
point after attempt was blocked and the Cougars couldn't hold the
lead one week after blowing a 21-point cushion and losing to UCLA
44-41 in overtime at home.
Walkon receiver LaReylle Cunningham caught a 57-yard TD pass
from Ayoob with 5:19 left for his first career touchdown to pull
Cal within 38-35. The Bears, playing the Cougars for the first time
since 2002, ended a four-game losing streak to Washington State
dating to 1998.
"I am just so happy I could make that big play," Cunningham
Hill extended his streak to nine straight games with a touchdown
catch, and now has 23 career TD receptions to break the Washington
State career record of 22 set by Hugh Campbell from 1960-62. Hill's
yards are the most by a Pac-10 receiver this season.
Without two starting offensive tackles, top receiver DeSean
Jackson sidelined with a shoulder injury and second-leading wideout
Robert Jordan nursing a hurt collarbone, Cal relied on its defense
early. The unit allowed five touchdowns in the air after giving up
four in its first seven games -- none previously at home.
Greg Van Hoesen and Mixon each made key interceptions late in
the first half to help the Bears break open the game with 14 points
in a 90-second span on the way to a 28-10 halftime lead.
Van Hoesen made his first career interception and ran it back 16
yards for a score, then Mixon's 38-yard interception return on
Brink's very next pass set up Ayoob's 3-yard TD pass to Chris
Brink, who three weeks ago set a single-game school record when
he passed for 531 yards against Oregon State, completed only four
passes in the first half but managed 178 yards on those throws.
"We showed some good determination and made it a game," Brink
said. "Four weeks in a row, we need to find a way to win. Leads
don't mean a lot. I know we're good enough to win."
Ayoob threw for 274 yards and four TDs and Marshawn Lynch scored
on a season-long 39-yard run on the way to a 160-yard game. Justin
Forsett added 111 yards for the Bears. Hawkins briefly took a seat
with 5:20 left in the third following a hard fall, but still came
Brandon Gibson made a 66-yard touchdown catch with 10:32 left in
the first quarter -- burning Mixon on the sideline route -- to give
the Cougars a quick lead.
With kickoff at 7:15 p.m. local time, this was only the second
night game ever at Memorial Stadium, where 52,569 fans turned out
for the nationally televised game on a chilly Bay Area night.
Cal hadn't beaten Washington State since a 24-14 home victory in
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Washington State's final drive was stopped on downs in the final minute. California then ran out the clock to complete its comeback victory.
Gameball goes to... Cal QB Joe Ayoob, who threw four TD passes, the last to his former San Francisco City College teammate, Lavelle Hawkins with 1:54 left.
Stat of the game... 3: The Cougars have blown a double-digit lead in the second half three times this season.