10:00 PM ET, October 18, 2008
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona might have to break out its all-cardinal uniforms more often.
Freshman Keola Antolin ran for 149 yards and three touchdowns and the Wildcats rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat No. 25 California 42-27 on Saturday night, sparking a wild celebration on the Arizona Stadium field.
It was a startling turnaround for an Arizona team that lost at New Mexico and Stanford.
• Arizona upset Cal for its first 5-2 start since 2000, the last time they started 3-1 in the Pac-10.
• The Wildcats are now 5-1 in their last six games vs. Cal at home.
• With the win, Arizona evened the all-time series at 13-13-2.
• Arizona wideout Mike Thomas topped 100 receiving yards for the fourth time in the last six games.
-- ESPN research
"I can't put into words to describe what we came through to get here," said Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who beat a ranked opponent for the sixth time in five seasons in the desert. "A lot was written and much said and a lot of times we were written off, but we keep coming back."
Trailing 24-14 at halftime, the Wildcats blitzed the Golden Bears with four touchdowns in 11:45 of the third quarter.
Once-lowly Arizona (5-2, 3-1 Pac-10) moved into a four-way tie for first in the Pac-10 with Oregon, Oregon State and Southern California -- and the sixth-ranked Trojans visit Arizona Stadium next week.
"It puts us in first place and that's where we want to be," Stoops said. "We are playing for first place next week and that's a position we haven't been in (in) a long time."
A big reason was the 5-foot-8, 180-pound Antolin, a player largely unknown outside the Arizona dressing room.
"When they called my number, I did my thing," said Antolin, who admitted to being winded by game's end.
Antolin, a freshman from Las Vegas, was summoned after starter Nic Grigsby fumbled on his first carry, setting up the Golden Bears' first score.
Antolin had rushed for 66 yards in the first six games. He had 61 at halftime, and as the game wore on it was clear he had supplanted the fumble-prone Grigsby as Arizona's tailback -- at least for one night.
Stoops said Grigsby "will continue to be our starting running back unless he wants to continue putting the ball on the ground."
Asked if the Bears had prepared to face Antolin, Cal linebacker Anthony Felder shook his head and said, "No. 2? We didn't see any of him on tape. The whole thing was Grigsby."
While Antolin was running wild, Arizona's defense shut down Cal's potent attack, limiting the Golden Bears to a field goal across the final 30 minutes.
"They made some big stops against us tonight," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "They did a good job of mixing up their defensive looks, especially in the third quarter."
Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and he threw an interception.
Jahvid Best ran for 107 yards and a touchdown in his return after missing a game with a dislocated left elbow. Best, who leads the nation in all-purpose yards with 215.5 yards per game, wore a heavy brace. Best did not play in the fourth quarter, and coach Jeff Tedford said Best's elbow had flared up on him.
Cal's unsettled quarterback picture became no clearer. Nate Longshore started and threw for 218 yards and two scores. Longshore also had an interception before being replaced in the fourth quarter by Kevin Riley, who threw for 97 yards and was intercepted once.
Cal (4-2, 2-1) missed a chance to retain sole possession of the run for the Rose Bowl. The Bears certainly aren't out of it in the topsy-turvy Pac-10, but this loss hurt.
"I am sick to my stomach," Bears center Alex Mack said. "Everyone has a loss, so the championship is still in our grasp."
Early on, the Bears looked golden.
They turned a fumble by Grigsby into an early 7-0 lead. Five plays after safety Marcus Ezeff recovered Grigsby's fumble at Arizona's 43, Longshore hit Verran Tucker for a 2-yard touchdown pass.
The Wildcats stormed back on a pair of touchdown runs by Antolin.
The first was a 20-yard burst up the middle to tie it at 7 early in the second quarter.
The second came 88 seconds later, on a bruising 11-yard run that put Arizona ahead 14-7.
"I know I lost (Antolin) out there a couple times, so I'm sure (Cal) did too," Stoops said.
The Bears tied it at 14 on Best's 67-yard run midway through the second quarter. And they made it 21-14 when Longshore hit Cameron Morrah for an 18-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.
Down 10 at intermission, Arizona cut it to 24-21 on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Tuitama to Mike Thomas on the opening drive of the second half.
After Cal's Giorgio Tavecchio hit a 40-yard field goal to put the Bears up 27-21, the Wildcats answered with a seven-play, 77-yard drive.
The big play was a 59-yard burst down the right sideline by Antolin, Arizona's longest run from scrimmage this year. That set the Wildcats up at the Cal 3. Two plays later, Antolin bulled over from a yard out to put Arizona ahead 28-27.
One play later, Ross picked off a pass on the sideline and bolted 21 yards for a touchdown to give the Wildcats a 35-27 lead.
Arizona made it 42-27 on a 35-yard pass from Tuitama to tight end Rob Gronkowski late in the third quarter.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Devin Ross returned an interception 21 yards for a touchdown that gave the Wildcats a 35-27 lead with 6:16 left.
Gameball goes to... Keola Antolin. The freshman rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 11:45. That's the time it took in the third quarter for Arizona to score four TDs and regain control of the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-15||3-13|
|4th Down Conversions||1-3||0-1|
|TD||09:19||Verran Tucker 2 Yd Pass From Nate Longshore (Gior Tavecchio Kick)||7||0|
|TD||14:13||Keola Antolin 20 Yd Run (Jason Bondzio Kick)||7||7|
|TD||12:35||Keola Antolin 11 Yd Run (Jason Bondzio Kick)||7||14|
|TD||07:51||Jahvid Best 67 Yd Run (Gior Tavecchio Kick)||14||14|
|TD||03:34||Cameron Morrah 18 Yd Pass From Nate Longshore (Gior Tavecchio Kick)||21||14|
|FG||00:03||Gior Tavecchio 42 Yd||24||14|
|TD||13:14||Mike Thomas 56 Yd Pass From Willie Tuitama (Jason Bondzio Kick)||24||21|
|FG||09:20||Gior Tavecchio 40 Yd||27||21|
|TD||06:33||Keola Antolin 1 Yd Run (Jason Bondzio Kick)||27||28|
|TD||06:16||Devin Ross 21 Yd Interception Return (Jason Bondzio Kick)||27||35|
|TD||01:29||Rob Gronkowski 35 Yd Pass From Willie Tuitama (Jason Bondzio Kick)||27||42|