TEMPE, Ariz. — With Cal showing little resistance defensively Friday night, the Bears found a path to victory at Sun Devil Stadium: Keep beating up on Arizona State's own hapless defense.
The Bears outlasted the Sun Devils 47-38 in their regular-season finale, clinching a winning record and perhaps improving their chances for one of the Pac-12's higher-tier bowls.
"To come on the road and travel on a short week and stay focused with what we're doing, I thought it was a great week for us — a great win," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.
Representatives from the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl were on hand Friday. Surely they liked what they saw from the Bears' offense.
Cal (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) racked up 484 total yards and scored its most points since a 63-12 victory against overmatched Presbyterian College on Sept. 17.
As for the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast might want to burn the game film. The Bears, who came in allowing a conference-low 327 yards per game, were gashed for 477 yards Friday.
ASU running back Cameron Marshall (from Valley Christian High-San Jose) ran for 157 yards, and Cal's secondary particularly had trouble defending the deep pass.
But the Bears forced four turnovers, none bigger than a fumble recovery midway through the fourth quarter to preserve a 44-38 lead.
The Sun Devils (6-6, 4-5) were driving when Marshall coughed up the ball at the end of a long run. Cal's Mustafa Jalil recovered, and the Bears converted that into a Giorgio Tavecchio 30-yard field goal to increase their lead to nine with 3:32 to play.
"It's a huge challenge to play against that team because they are so explosive throwing the football," Tedford said. "Even though we gave up some big plays, we stiffened up when we needed to."
Cal appeared to be in control when it took a 41-31 lead late in the third quarter on Zach Maynard's 74-yard touchdown pass to running back C.J. Anderson. Maynard scrambled away from pressure, and when defenders sucked up toward him, Maynard floated a pass and Anderson caught it with nothing but open field ahead of him, one of Anderson's three touchdowns.
But every time the Bears built up a cushion, they had trouble handling the prosperity.
The Sun Devils took just four plays to drive 65 yards, with Marshall breaking free for a 24-yard score to cut it to 41-38 with seven seconds left in the third.
The teams combined for 512 yards of offense in the first two quarters, putting on a wide-open clinic moving the ball. They finished with 961 yards.
Cal led 17-7 after one quarter and was poised to take a 27-14 cushion into halftime. But ASU quarterback Brock Osweiler hit Rashad Ross with a 35-yard touchdown on 4th-and-10 to cut it to 27-21 with 1:02 left in the half.
On the ensuing squib kickoff, Richard Rodgers fumbled and the Sun Devils' Keelan Johnson recovered at Cal's 30. Three plays later, Osweiler found tight end Trevor Kohl for a 4-yard score that put ASU up 28-27 — two touchdowns in a 29-second flurry that turned the momentum toward the home team.
But the Bears, who had scored two touchdowns in a 38-second flurry in the first quarter, could not be stopped.
Tailback Isi Sofele rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown, moving into sixth place on Cal's single-season rushing list with 1,266 yards. Maynard completed 19 of 26 passes for 237 yards and has thrown just one interception over his past four games. He also rushed for 40 yards, including a 16-yard score on an option keeper.
Tavecchio connected on all four of his field goal attempts.
"We showed we deserve a better bowl," Maynard said. "We'll see how the rest of these games play out this weekend."Keep beating up on Arizona State's own hapless defense.
Bowl game, TBD