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Arizona vs. Cal final score: Wildcats win double overtime thriller in Berkeley

Arizona is in Pac-12 title contention and one win from bowl eligibility

NCAA Football: Arizona at California
UA running back Zach Green rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Like seemingly every game between the Arizona Wildcats and California Golden Bears, Saturday’s matchup went down to the wire.

And for the fourth time in a row in the series, the Wildcats topped the Bears. Arizona squandered a 14-point lead, but came back to win 45-44 in double overtime in Berkeley, Calif.

A failed two-point conversion was the difference.

Cal running back Vic Enwere fought through multiple defenders on 4th-and-goal at the one-yard line to move the Golden Bears within one point in the second overtime period, and Cal opted to go for the win on its home turf.

Quarterback Ross Bowers fired a back-foot throw across the middle, but Colin Schooler was there to breakup the sure-touchdown and propel Arizona to its third straight win.

Schooler had a career-high 15 tackles.

The Wildcats, who improve to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the Pac-12, are now just one win away from bowl eligibility with five games still left to play.

Arizona is 3-0 since Khalil Tate took over at quarterback vs. Colorado three weeks ago.

Tate gave UA the lead in double overtime with a surreal effort. The sophomore avoided two rushers before rolling right and finding Bryce Wolma for the game-winning score.

It capped off another wonderful performance by the Arizona quarterback.

Tate had 17 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown, while going 10 for 15 for 166 yards and two touchdowns and an interception through the air.

Despite being without Nick Wilson (injury) and J.J. Taylor (targeting) for most of the game, Arizona still managed to run for 345 yards, tallying 511 in total.

Arizona led 21-7 at halftime, but its offense cooled off while its defense had difficultly getting off the field all game long.

The Golden Bears were 13-19 on third down, and eventually tied the game at 28-28 on an 18-yard touchdown run by Patrick Laird early in the fourth quarter.

After Cal and Arizona traded field goals, Tate had a chance to engineer a game-winning drive with just 1:41 left, but a heave down the near sideline overshot a leaping Shawn Poindexter and the pass was intercepted near the goal line to force overtime.

Kanawai Noa caught a 13-yard touchdown in the first possession of overtime, which was quickly matched by a 25-yard rushing touchdown by Zach Green, who scored on UA’s first play of the period.

Green had 20 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns, filling in for Wilson and Taylor.

The Wildcats’ defense surrendered 473 yards but did force two turnovers — a pair of interceptions by redshirt freshmen Jarrius Wallace and Lorenzo Burns.

In fairness, Arizona’s defense was ravaged by injuries. Scottie Young Jr. was out with a knee injury, while Tony Fields II, Kylan Wilborn, Dereck Boles all suffered injuries during the game.

It didn’t help that Troy Young, Scottie Young’s backup at free safety, was ejected on UA’s second possession of the game for targeting.

Wallace took Young’s spot, and intercepted Bowers in the end zone in the second quarter.

While up 28-14 at one point, Arizona nearly had one of the worst starts imaginable.

Arizona went 3-and-out to begin the ballgame, which Cal followed with an 11-play, 66-yard touchdown drive capped by a Statue of Liberty play to take an early 7-0 lead.

Then on the first play of UA’s next drive, Wolma fumbled on a 16-yard reception, which was recovered by the Bears.

Luckily for Arizona, Wolma’s forearm was down when the ball was jarred loose, the call was overturned, and the Wildcats would retain possession.

Taylor then ran for a 30-yard touchdown which eventually turned into 21 unanswered points and a dominant day for the Arizona offense.

Taylor had four carries for 44 yards before being ejected for targeting on a vicious block.

Arizona could have taken a 24-7 lead heading into halftime, but Josh Pollack missed a 43-yard field goal as time expired.

The UA kicker made a 36-yard field goal to put UA up 31-28 with 5:07 left in regulation, though.

Dane Cruikshank nearly came up with a game-sealing interception on Cal’s ensuing drive, but he couldn’t corral Bowers’ pass, keeping the Bears alive.

Bowers and the Bears drove to UA’s 35-yard line where Matt Anderson would drill a 52-yard field goal on 4th-and-4 with 1:41 left.

Bowers was 29 of 39 for 309 yards with a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. The redshirt sophomore had success with short, quick passes over the middle and in the flat against a lackluster UA secondary.

Tate, meanwhile, connected on a deep 56-yard touchdown pass to Shun Brown after Cal cut UA’s lead to 21-14 in the third quarter.

Tate had rushed for a 76-yard touchdown to put Arizona up 14-7. Then Green ran for a 13-yard TD to make it 21-7.

The Wildcats rushed for 249 yards and three touchdowns on just 26 carries (9.6 ypc) in the first half.

The Wildcats will go for their fourth win in a row next Saturday when they host the No. 16 Washington State Cougars for Homecoming.

Arizona is suddenly in Pac-12 title contention, tied for second in the Pac-12 South standings with ASU.

USC, which was blown out by Notre Dame on Saturday, is in first by half a game. Arizona faces the Trojans in Los Angeles on Nov. 4.

Buckle up.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire