Whoever said “it’s never over until it’s over, must have had a front row seat at the 15th Annual Cactus Bowl. California kicker Tyler Fredrickson nailed a 35-yard field goal as time expired to give the Golden Bears a 52-49 win over Virginia Tech in one of the wildest bowl games ever played.
Virginia Tech’s Bryan Randall and Cal’s Aaron Rodgers both flirted with 400 yards passing in an aerial duel that saw both teams rally from 14-point deficits. Randall was 24-for-34 for 398 yards and four touchdown passes, while Rodgers was 27-for-35 for 394 yards and two touchdowns.
The Golden Bears, making their first bowl appearance since 1996, scored six consecutive touchdowns after falling behind 21-7 in the first quarter to take a 49-35 lead.
The Hokies came back, though, to pull within seven points on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Bryan Randall to Chris Shreve and tie the game on a spectacular 52-yard punt return by DeAngelo Hall with 3:11 remaining.
Rodgers, who was named offensive player of the game, calmly led Cal down the field for the winning field goal by Fredrickson as the Golden Bears’ bench emptied in exhilaration.
The two teams played to near perfection throughout the game with 1,081 yards of total offense, no turnovers and only 10 penalties combined. The 101 total points scored set a Cactus Bowl record, surpassing the 96 between Texas Tech (55) and Air Force (41) in 1995.
California took the opening kickoff and went 79 yards in nine plays with Rodgers sneaking over from the 1 for an early 7-0 lead. The Hokies answered with three consecutive touchdowns all by Randall – one on the ground and two through the air.
Kevin Jones had 153 yards rushing on 16 carries and a touchdown in his final game for Virginia Tech. He added four receptions for 25 yards.