BERKELEY, Calif. — California was so focused on containing Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey that the Golden Bears completely lost track of B.J. Denker.
The Wildcats’ quarterback is a pretty decent threat on the ground as well.
Denker ran for three touchdowns and passed for a fourth, Carey went over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season and Arizona beat California 33-28 on Saturday afternoon.
It’s the fourth time this season that Denker has had multiple rushing touchdowns in a single game, enabling him to set a school record for quarterbacks with 11 overall.
“They didn’t want Ka’Deem to have the ball,” Denker said. “If we had a play called where I had to get him the ball, they wouldn’t let him. I knew I was going to have to carry it some and take some shots.”
Denker did just that.
A week after setting a school record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in one game, he managed just 44 yards on the ground but scored on runs of nine, one and 14 yards.
Arizona’s third straight win improved the Wildcats to 6-2 (3-2 Pac-12) and makes them bowl eligible for the second time in two seasons under coach Rich Rodriguez.
“It’s not pretty but it’s a good road win,” said Rodriguez, whose team heads home for the next three games. “Had we turned the ball over we would have lost. We made just enough plays offensively to get us over the hump.”
Carey, the nation’s leading rusher, topped the century mark for the 11th consecutive game with 152 yards on 32 carries. He was limited to 48 yards after halftime and is still off his pace from a year ago when he set a school record with 1,929 yards.
Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff passed for four touchdowns but was intercepted twice in the second half.
The home team had won the previous six times in this series between longtime conference rivals before Denker sparked the Wildcats to their first win at Berkeley since a double-overtime victory in 1997.
“The two turnovers hurt us,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “It was frustrating. We just basically didn’t get in synch at all after the first drive.”
Denker completed 24 of 38 passes for 261 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown to Nate Phillips in the second quarter.
That was enough for Arizona, which couldn’t shake the pesky Golden Bears until Denker’s 14-yard score near the end of the third quarter.
Goff kept Cal (1-8, 0-6 Pac 12) close despite a rocky afternoon.
He completed 34 of 56 passes for 289 yards, and his interceptions came on back-to-back drives. The first came while the Bears were backed up deep in their own territory, while the second when Goff tried to force a throw into coverage in the end zone.
“It was in our grasp and we didn’t really grab it,” Goff said. “It really shows that with the team we have we can’t make those little mistakes. I can’t make those interceptions if we’re going to win. It just can’t happen.”
Little went right for Cal after scoring on its opening possession.
Goff completed passes to five different receivers and capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown throw to Khalfani Muhammad. That put the Bears up 7-0, their first lead in more than 364 minutes.
It didn’t last long.
Denker scored on a read-option keeper around the left end from nine yards out to tie the game, then Arizona’s defense put the Wildcats in front with a safety.
Arizona thought it had Cal stopped for a safety earlier in the first quarter but an intentional grounding penalty against Goff was waved off. Given a second shot after Carey was dropped for a 1-yard loss on 4th-and-2, the Wildcats cashed in when linebacker Scooby Wright and safety Jared Tevis tackled Bears running back Darren Ervin in the end zone.
Jake Smith’s career-best 53-yard field goal extended Arizona’s lead to 12-7 with 12:54 left in the second quarter. Smith’s previous longest attempt had been 41 yards.
Denker’s touchdown pass to Phillips helped make it 19-7.
Goff’s 17-yard throw to Kenny Lawler trimmed the gap to 19-14 at halftime but the Bears couldn’t get any closer.
Arizona opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Denker’s keeper into the end zone from a yard out. Denker’s 60-yard completion to Terrence Miller and a pass interference call near the goal line helped set up the score.
Lawler made a stellar one-handed grab of a 3-yard touchdown pass to pull Cal within 26-21 but Goff threw an interception on the Bears’ next possession.
“We knew there was going to be some adversity and that we would have to be resilient,” Rodriguez said. “Our guys didn’t panic.”
Denker’s third touchdown run pushed the Wildcats’ lead to 33-21 before the Bears made one final push late in the fourth quarter when Goff threw a 29-yard touchdown to Lawler with 1:42 remaining.
Arizona recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt, however, and ran out the clock.
Notes: Carey is the fourth running back in Arizona history to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Trung Candidate did it most recently in 1998-99. … Dykes served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona from 2007-09.