7:45 PM ET, December 4, 2004
M.M. Roberts Stadium, HATTIESBURG, MS
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- California coach Jeff Tedford was praising J.J. Arrington and couldn't resist the chance to give his fourth-ranked Golden Bears one more plug for entry into the Bowl Championship Series.
Arrington ran for a season-best 261 yards, his school-record 11th straight game with more than 100 yards, in Cal's 26-16 victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday night.
"He's a very solid, consistent performer for us," Tedford said. "There has to be something said for consistency throughout the year."
Like a BCS bid?
"I would hope so," Tedford said. "That's the way I would look at it."
Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and California scored on a bizarre special-teams play in the closer-than-expected win. The Golden Bears (10-1) learn Sunday if it will result in their first Rose Bowl bid since 1959.
"We want the Rose Bowl so bad we can taste it," defensive lineman Lorenzo Alexander said.
The Bears were fourth in the latest BCS standings, barely ahead of Texas. They need to stay ahead of the Longhorns to earn a trip to Pasadena, Calif.
"Our one loss was to the No. 1 team in the country," Rodgers said, referring to Cal's 23-17 loss to Southern California two months ago. "Texas is a very good team as well. Their one loss was to (Oklahoma), the No. 2 team in the country. We're hoping the computers stay the same and the human voters don't change their minds."
Rodgers was 15-for-28 for 223 yards for Cal, which had 546 total yards, held Southern Miss to 23 yards rushing and finished with 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 1949.
Southern Miss, a 24-point underdog, pulled to 17-16 on Dustin Almond's 1-yard touchdown run with 5:56 to play.
But Darren McCaleb's potential game-tying extra-point attempt was blocked by Thomas DeCoud. Wendell Hunter returned it 85 yards for two points, giving Cal a 19-16 lead.
Arrington then ran 56 yards up the middle to set up Marshawn Lynch's game-sealing 12-yard touchdown run with 4:51 left.
"They made it look easy," Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said.
Arrington said he had two sets of pollsters to impress -- the voters who decide the national rankings, and those who determine the Heisman Trophy winner.
"I don't know what else I've got to do," Arrington said. "I've been humble all year about it, but I'm going to speak out now. I'm the only back in the nation who rushed for 100 yards every game. That's a tribute to my (offensive) line. ... Man, something's got to go right."
Almond threw for a career-high 304 yards on 17 of 37 passing for Southern Miss (6-5), which plays North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 14.
"Around here, we're used to being the underdog and that's the way we like it," Almond said. "We went out there today knowing we had nothing to lose."
Cal took the lead for good with touchdowns on consecutive second-quarter possessions.
Rodgers tied it at 7 on his 36-yard pass to Geoff McArthur, who ran through one tackle and sidestepped another on his way to the end zone.
The Golden Bears then forced a three-and-out, got the ball back and scored again. Rodgers' 8-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Cross with 6:25 left in the half gave Cal a 14-7 lead.
McArthur, Cal's top receiver, had six catches for 145 yards but broke his leg late in the fourth quarter, Tedford said.
McCaleb's 33-yard field goal in the third quarter pulled Southern Miss to 14-10. Tom Schneider's 24-yard field goal on Cal's ensuing possession returned the lead to seven.
Southern Miss took an early 7-0 lead on a flea-flicker. Almond took the pitch back from Sherron Moore and hit Anthony Perine over the middle for the 40-yard TD.
"We came to this game holding nothing back," said Perine, who had four receptions for 101 yards.
The game, originally scheduled for Sept. 16, was pushed back nearly three months when Hurricane Ivan threatened the Gulf Coast. Cal beat Southern Miss for the second straight year.
"We blew them out 34-2 last year and this year they wanted to step up and show they could play with us," Alexander said.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||3-14||5-15|
|4th Down Conversions||1-2||0-1|
|TD||4:54||ANTHONY PERINE 40 YD PASS FROM DUSTIN ALMOND (DARREN MCCALEB KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||11:51||GEOFF MCARTHUR 36 YD PASS FROM AARON RODGERS (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||6:25||GARRETT CROSS 8 YD PASS FROM AARON RODGERS (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 66 yards.
|FG||6:44||DARREN MCCALEB 33 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 66 yards.
|FG||4:05||TOM SCHNEIDER 24 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 50 yards.
|TD||5:56||DUSTIN ALMOND 1 YD RUN (BLOCKED XP)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 23 yards.
|TD||4:51||MARSHAWN LYNCH 12 YD RUN (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 80 yards.