PHOENIX (AP)—After 98 points and 1,081 yards of offense, the wildest Insight Bowl came down to a 35-yard field goal try by a kicker who had missed five in a row.
Tyler Fredrickson made the final kick of his Cal career as time expired to give the Bears a 52-49 victory over Virginia Tech on Friday night.
“Kickers have to have a short memory. That’s a little mantra,” the senior said. “You put that aside, and you go out and do your job.”
Fredrickson made just 15 of 30 field goal attempts this season, but he knows what it’s like to hit the big ones. His 38-yarder beat Southern California 34-31 in triple overtime on Sept. 27, the top-ranked Trojans’ lone loss.
Cal’s Aaron Rodgers and Virginia Tech’s Bryan Randall each flirted with 400 yards passing in an aerial duel that saw both teams rally from 14-point deficits.
Rodgers, a sophomore who didn’t start until the fifth game, was 27-of-35 for 394 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores and was named the game’s offensive MVP.
Randall was 24-for-34 for 398 yards and tied an Insight Bowl record with four TD passes. He also ran for a score.
Virginia Tech’s Carter Warley—12-for-15 going into the contest, missed field goals of 40, 45 and 29 yards.
“I feel for Carter Warley,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said, “a great kicker that just had an awful night.”
Junior Kevin Jones, in his final game for the Hokies because he’s leaving for the NFL, rushed for 153 yards on 16 carries, including an 11-yard touchdown.
“I was pretty emotional,” Jones said. “I just went out there and gave it my all.”
Chris Lyman, starting in place of injured Cal star Geoff McArthur, caught five passes for 149 yards, including a 33-yarder for a touchdown. He had just 107 yards receiving for the entire season entering the game.
The Golden Bears (8-6), in their first bowl game since 1996, scored six consecutive touchdowns after falling behind 21-7 in the first quarter.
“We could have folded,” second-year Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “But you’re never going to find that in this team.”
Rodgers, 15-for-17 for 245 yards in the second half, scored on an 8-yard option play to put Cal up 42-28 with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
“They didn’t respect us before the game, but after we put up 52 points I think they know what we were all about,” Rodgers said. “We knew if we just hung around that we were going to start making big plays.”
Virginia Tech (8-5) came back, though, and DeAngelo Hall reversed his field for a spectacular 52-yard punt return that tied the game at 49-49 with 3:11 remaining. After the game, Hall, a junior, said he will enter the NFL draft.
There were no turnovers in the game, but Rodgers almost committed a disastrous one when he was sacked at the Bears’ 29 by Kevin Lewis and fumbled. But Cal’s Chris Murphy recovered and the Golden Bears moved downfield for the winning field goal.
The winning drive came after Brandon Pace’s kickoff went out of bounds and gave Cal the ball on the 35. Fredrickson warmed up as he watched his teammates move downfield.
“I was hoping that we’d put six on the board,” he said, “then when I saw the clock click down to about 6 seconds, I realized `Here we go again. ‘SC and then this.”’
Hokies backup quarterback Marcus Vick, younger brother of Michael, hadn’t caught a pass all season. But he caught four against Cal, including a 36-yard touchdown pass in the first half.
Virginia Tech, moving from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season, lost five of its last seven games after being ranked as high as No. 3.
The Hokies’ Ernest Wilford caught eight passes for 110 yards to break the school record for career receptions with 128. The old mark was 121 by Antonio Freeman (1991-94).
Rodgers, despite his late start, surpassed Kyle Boller for second in season passing yardage with 2,903. Rodgers’ fifth 300-yard passing game this season also tied a school record.
California, which won five of its last six, trailed 28-21 at halftime but outscored the Hokies 21-0 in the third quarter.
Rodgers completed his first 12 passes in the second half for 194 yards.
The Bears took the lead 35-28 with a three-play, 66-yard drive that lasted just 52 seconds. Rodgers threw 42 yards to Lyman and 24 yards to Burl Toler to set up Adimchinobe Echemandu’s 9-yard touchdown run with 5:59 left in the third quarter.
The teams combined for 537 yards—330 by the Hokies—and 49 points in the first half.
California took the opening kickoff and went 79 yards in nine plays, with Rodgers sneaking over from the 1.
The Hokies, though, burned the Bears for touchdowns on their next three possessions.
The crowd of 42,364—551 shy of capacity—was the largest for the game since it moved to Bank One Ballpark in 2000.