TUCSON (AP) — Jubilant Arizona players danced, cheered and sang “Bear Down” at ear-splitting level.
The longest losing streak in the nation was finally over.
Michael Wiley scored on a 10-yard run with 2:17 remaining to lift Wildcats to a 10-3 Pac-12 victory over COVID-19-depleted California on Saturday, ending the Wildcats’ 20-game skid, the longest in Pac-12 history.
“Obviously, this has been hard,” Arizona first-year coach Jedd Fisch said. “Its’s a monkey on the back. You can’t avoid it, even if you want to.”
Arizona quarterback Will Plummer had 197 yards total offense and the Wildcats (1-8) held California (3-6) to 122 yards total offense while winning for the first time since a 35-30 victory over Colorado on Oct. 5, 2019.
Cal played without starting senior quarterback Chase Garbers, who was one of seven starters and 24 players and coaches who were unavailable. Cal announced Thursday that “multiple” players were in Covid protocols and would not play, but federal and state laws prohibit Cal from commenting on individual players.
“It’s a one-off, we hope,” said Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff, who attended the game.
“It’s a Berkeley local issue primarily that we are dealing with, and I think it is amazing that Cal was able to field a team given how many players are in protocol.”
Arizona hold an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since a 35-0 victory over Northern Arizona in the 2013 season opener.
Garbers was the Pac-12’s total offense leader entering the weekend, at 293 yards per game. He was replaced by Ryan Glover, who had not taken a snap this season.
“We really don’t care who they bring out there, we still have to play defense,” Arizona linebacker Christian Young said.
“They needed their quarterback bad, but we went out there and handled ourselves like we should.”
Wiley capped the winning 55-yard drive that was set up by Stanley Berryhill III’s 25-yard punt return with 4:56 remaining.
Plummer completed a 19-yard pass to Dorian Singer for a first down at the Cal 25, and Wiley scored five running plays later.
“It feels like we took a weight off our shoulders, but we have to keep on winning,” Young said.
The Wildcats had 331 yards, and Plummer had a team-high 68 of their 202 rushing yards on a season-high 52 attempts.
Glover completed 11 of 29 passes for 94 yards. Glover is a graduate transfer from Western Carolina after spending the previous three years at Penn.
Cal had one possession after Wiley’s touchdown, but Arizona sacked Glover on first down and pressured him into three straight incompletions.
Arizona broke a scoreless tie on Tyler Loop’s 29-yard field goal with 5:46 remaining in the third quarter, and California responded with Nick Lopez’s 34-yard field goal on its next drive to tie it at 3-3.
The Golden Bears crossed midfield for the first time on that scoring drive. Lopez made first career field goal attempt in place of starter Dario Longhetto, who did not play.
Cal punted 11 times and did not score after any of its three interceptions.
Plummer aggravated a right shoulder injury when he was sacked on the first play of the second quarter, and he also took stitches in his right hand later in the second quarter.
He went to the training room three times during the game, Fisch said.
“There were times I didn’t think he was going to be able to play the rest of the game,” Fisch said. “He did not back down.”
California: Obviously, hurt by the loss of quarterback Garbers and seven other starters Saturday, Cal faces a difficult path as it attempts to qualify for its third bowl games in four seasons. The Golden Bears (3-6) must win their final three games against USC, UCLA and arch-rival Stanford. Only the USC game is in Berkeley.
Arizona: The Wildcats took a step backward offensively, but no one was complaining after their first victory in 25 months. Arizona will take the momentum into its final three games, at home against Pac-12 South leader Utah and road games at Washington State and Arizona State.
California: Hosts Southern California on Saturday.
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