Arizona picks off Longshore three times in upset of CalNov 12, 2006 - 2:11 AM TUCSON, Arizona (Ticker) -- Arizona apparently caught quarterback Nate Longshore and California looking ahead.
Cornerback Antoine Cason returned an interception 39 yards for the go-ahead score and linebacker Ronnie Palmer picked off another pass by Longshore late in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats dumped eighth-ranked California, 24-20, in a Pac-10 Conference contest.
The Bears (8-2, 6-1 Pac-10), who had won their previous eight games and still had high hopes of a possible national championship, had a showdown set with No. 7 Southern California next weekend. However, Cal coach Jeff Tetford said the impending USC game had no influence on the outcome.
"Absolutely not. We prepared all week in practice for this game," Tetford said. "As coaches, I'll take the blame for the loss. Our offense didn't do enough, and that falls directly on my shoulders.
"Everyone in the Pac-10 has one loss. If we take it one game, we still have a shot at the conference championship.
Despite a 356-252 edge in total offense, the Bears were hindered by three interceptions by Longshore, two after they had opened a 17-3 advantage.
"Give Arizona credit, they are a very good defensive team," Tetford said. "We just didn't play well, and you have to make plays if you want to win. A lot of plays we didn't play well, and we shot ourselves in the foot with some penalties.
Trailing 17-10, Arizona (5-5, 3-4) appeared to squander a chance to tie the game when quarterback Willie Tuitama was intercepted in Cal territory with two seconds left in the third quarter. But the pick was nullified because of a defensive holding penalty.
Two plays later, an interception in the end zone by Cal cornerback Daymeion Hughes was negated by an interference call, and Chris Henry scored two plays later on a four-yard scamper around left end.
"This is definitely a good feeling," Henry said. "At this point in the season, we are right where we need to be. We have won two in a row now and it is a good feeling. We have a lot of momentum going into the next couple of games. We have a chance to win every game."
On Cal's ensuing possession, Cason picked off a pass in the right flat and scored untouched from 39 yards to give Arizona a 24-17 lead.
The Bears pulled within 24-20 on Tom Schneider's 20-yard field goal with 9:51 left, but they had a 1st-and-goal from the 1 and could not punch it into the end zone. The score was set up by a 45-yard pass to Lavelle Hawkins, who was headed for an easy score until he slipped and fell at the 1.
After a series of fruitless possessions, Cal got the ball back at its own 10 with 3:14 remaining. The Bears momentarily appeared to take the lead as DeSean Jackson hauled in a pass, tip-toed the left sideline at the Arizona 44 and dashed into the end zone, but officials reviewed the play and ruled that Jackson stepped out at the 41.
"I thought he stepped out. I was right there," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "I think I see a lot things the referees don't see, though. I thought they would get it right though."
The Bears reached the 27, but defensive lineman Marcus Smith tipped Longshore's pass at the line of scrimmage and Palmer picked it off at the 10 with just over a minute to play, giving Arizona coach Mike Stoops his biggest win in three years at the school. He entered 10-21.
"The defense did really good tonight," linebacker Spencer Larson said. "We were not surprised that we made so many stops, we had a good game plan. We always have opportunities to score, but we just haven't until tonight.
Jackson scored on a 95-yard punt return - his fourth of the season and fifth career for a school and Pac-10 record - and a 62-yard reception. The super sophomore finished with six catches for 131 yards and returned three punts for 128.
"DeSean Jackson is a great player," Stoops said. "Their quarterback (Nate Longshore) played well. We made just enough plays to win. Cal made some good plays down the stretch but we kept coming back. This is a great team win all the way through the game. So many guys stood out.
Jackson got the Bears on the board first with his punt return with 11:43 to play in the first period.
A first-quarter interception by Arizona safety Cory Hall at the Cal 45 led to a 39-yard field goal by Nicholas Folk to cut the deficit to 7-3, but a 56-yard run by Marshawn Lynch set up a 46-yard field goal by Schneider.
Lynch finished with 102 yards on 16 carries to surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career. Russell White is the only other Bear to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons.
Longshore and Jackson hooked up for a 62-yard scoring play with 6:14 left in the third quarter to increase the lead to 17-3. Longshore was 17-of-36 for 250 yards.
A five-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a one-yard plunge by Henry got the Wildcats within 17-10 with 5:51 left in the third. Tuitama found Syndric Steptoe for 26 yards and Mike Thomas for 39 during the drive.
"In the second half, we ran the ball more and some guys made really big plays," Tuitama said. "We had a really good balance in the second half and we went out there and finished. I was trying harder to see open looks and we all played fierce at the end. Syndric and Mike did a great job tonight.
Tuitama, playing in his second game after missing two games with a concussion, was 17-for-34 for 202 yards with no TDs or interceptions.
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