HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (Ticker) -- J. J. Arrington put No. 4 California on his shoulders and carried the Golden Bears to a likely BCS bowl game.
Arrington rushed for a season-high 261 yards on 31 carries to give California its seventh consecutive victory, 26-16, over Southern Miss.
"We're 10-1, that speaks for itself," California coach Jeff Tedford said. "We lost to the number one team in the nation at their place ... with a chance to win that game. I hope it works out that way. But it's out of our control for now."
California (10-1), which gained 546 yards, is hoping to go to its first Rose Bowl in 45 years, but needed some unexpected heroics to preserve the win.
Derrick Almond scored a 1-yard touchdown with less than six minutes remaining to bring the Golden Eagles to within 17-16. But California blocked the extra-point attempt by Darren McCaleb and linebacker Wendell Hunter returned it 85 yards for two points.
On the Golden Bears' next possession, Arrington gained 68 yards on successive carries before Marshawn Lynch scored a 12-yard TD to put away the game.
"Everyone was doing their job," Arrington said. "We had a few miscommunications, but the offensive line picked it up. They've done a great job all year. I was just trying to run."
Arrington, the nation's only back to gain 100-yards in every game this year, finished the regular season with 1,845 yards, the sixth-highest one-year total in Pac-10 history. His 167.7 yard-per-game average is the best conference mark since Charles White averaged 212.9 yards for USC in 1981.
"Hopefully, I impressed the (Heisman Trophy) voters," Arrington said. "I don't know what else I've got to do."
Arrington gained the most rushing yards ever allowed by Southern Mississippi, breaking the mark set by Antowain Smith of Houston, who had 231 yards on November 9, 1996.
"You have to give credit to a guy like J.J. Arrington," Tedford said. "Another 200-yard game. The guy has done it every single week this year and deserves a lot of credit and a lot of accolades for that."
Aaron Rogers helped give California a 14-3 halftime lead with second quarter touchdown passes to Geoff McArthur and Garrett Cross. Rogers was 15-of-28 for 223 yards, while McArthur caught six passes for 145 yards.
"They really put us in some third-and-longs and brought some pressure, tipped some passes," Rogers said. "They dominated the game in the second half. We were just fortunate to come out on top."
Almond gave Southern Mississippi (6-5) a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter when he found Anthony Perine for a 40-yard TD. Almond was 17-of-37 for 304 yards.
"We expected to win the game," Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said. "This team has the right stuff to win games like this. We didn't make enough plays to win, but we're made of the right stuff."
The Golden Eagles will take on North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl, December 14.
The game was originally scheduled for September 16 and was postponed because of Hurricane Ivan.