Not bad for a kid who couldn't get a sniff from a Division I college coming out of high school in Chico, Calif. After flirting with the idea of playing at Division III Lewis and Clark, and even of quitting football to concentrate on baseball, Rodgers enrolled at Butte College, a juco in nearby Oroville, where he starred for a season. The day after he committed to Cal, Rodgers says, he got a phone call from then Washington coach Rick Neuheisel, who declared, "We've wanted you from Day One. We've got a scholarship for you."
"Slick Rick," says Rodgers, smiling.
Rodgers's 20-yard laser to Geoff MacArthur midway through the third quarter set up Cal's final score. It also was his 19th straight completion, two more than the previous Pac10 record, set in '84 by then UCLA quarterback Rick Neuheisel.
The Bears drove the ball down the field on their final two possessions but could not get in the end zone. "We rope-a-doped 'em," joked Carroll. The first drive was terminated by a missed field goal. The Trojans promptly went three and out. During the TV timeout preceding Cal's final possession, which started on its own 35yard line with 4:31 to play, a USC coach could be heard telling his charges, "Make 'em go 65 yards! Make 'em [screw] it up!"
The Bears didn't screw up so much as the Trojans stepped up. After Rodgers marched Cal down to USC's nine with 1:47 to play, the Bears had four shots at the end zone. Rodgers threw an incomplete pass, was sacked for a five-yard loss by Manuel Wright, then missed on two more passes. The home team seemed not so much joyous in victory as relieved. Among the many Trojans who went out of their way to embrace Rodgers or shake his hand on the field was Mike Williams. What he said to the quarterback remained between them, but it might as well have been, See you in The Show.
Nothing comes easy for USC. Next up is Arizona State, another well-coached, undefeated team with a red-hot quarterback, Andrew Walter. "We have to turn it around, get right after it this week," warned Carroll.
One final question, Coach. The Bears doubled your offensive output. J.J. Arrington rushed for 112 yards. Rodgers wrote his name in the record books. Considering this, how do you think you did in your one-on-one matchup with Tedford?
Carroll answered in two words: