Freshman quarterback Jared Goff threw a career-high four touchdown passes, including one with 1:42 remaining that got the Cal Bears close, but California was unable to get the ball back and lost a heartbreaker to Arizona at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon, 33-28.
Redshirt freshman Kenny Lawler was on the receiving end of three of Goff’s scoring tosses—the first Cal receiver with three TD receptions in a single game since DeSean Jackson in 2006—and he out-jumped a Wildcat defender in the corner of the end zone to come down with a 29-yard scoring pass in the final two minutes to give the Golden Bears a chance late.
But Arizona recovered the ensuing onside kick, made a first down and was able to bleed out the rest of the clock.
With the win the Wildcats became bowl eligible at 6-2 and improved to 3-2 in the Pac-12 South. Cal is now 1-8 and 0-6 in the Pac-12 North and the Golden Bears have now lost 13 straight games against Football Bowl Subdivision competition.
Their last win against an FBS opponent was more than a year ago, Oct. 13, 2012, when they beat Washington State in Pullman, Wash., 31-17.
Cal’s lone win this season was a 37-30 win over Football Championship Subdivision foe Portland State at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 7.
Goff was 34-for-56 for 289 yards and threw two picks in addition to the four scoring passes. More significantly, Goff wasn’t sacked—the first time all year the Golden Bears have played a game without surrendering at least one sack.
Daniel Lasco rushed for 72 yards on 12 carries as the Bears leaned on their running game for 130 yards on 26 attempts.
But the Golden Bear defense couldn’t contain the 1-2 punch of quarterback B.J. Denker and running back Ka’Deem Carey. Carey didn’t find the end zone, but rushed for 152 yards on 32 carries, while Denker ran for three scored and threw for another.
The Bears opened the scoring, taking the opening kickoff and marching 75 yards on 12 plays, capped by Goff’s 11-yard scoring pass to Khalfani Muhammad that made it 7-0.
Arizona answered on a nine-yard run by Denker that tied the game and then the Wildcat defense gave Arizona the lead late in the first quarter.
Cal stopped Carey at the 3-yard-line on a fourth-and-2, but Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright caught running back Darren Ervin in the end zone for a safety and ‘Zona led 9-7.
After Jake Smith booted a 53-yard field goal to give Arizona a 12-7 lead, the Wildcats stretched the lead to 19-7 on a 21-yard pass from Denker to Nate Phillips.
Cal answered on a 17-yard toss from Goff to Lawler with 6:04 left in the half to make it 19-14.
Arizona got a pair of scores in the third quarter, runs of one and 14 yards by Denker sandwiched around a diving one-hand catch by Lawler for a three-yard score and Arizona led 33-21 heading into the fourth quarter.
Cal’s embattled defense surrendered 448 yards, 261 through the air and 187 on the ground.
It was a solid effort for the Golden Bears, but they came up just short. They host USC for their final home game of the season next Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon.