BERKELEY, Calif. -- Quarterback Khalil Tate ran for 137 yards and a touchdown and passed for two more, including a 22-yarder to Bryce Wolma in the second overtime, and Arizona held on to beat California 45-44 on Saturday night.
Zach Green scored the Wildcats touchdown in the first overtime and had a 3-yard run to open the second extra period before Tate scrambled in the backfield to avoid a sack and found Wolma open near the goal line for the game-winner.
California answered with Vic Enwere's 1-yard touchdown run but came up short on a two-point conversion attempt when Arizona freshman linebacker Colin Schooler deflected a Ross Bowers pass intended for Jordan Duncan near the back of the end zone.
"They had been picking on me pretty much whenever I was guarding a receiver," Schooler said. "I had a couple mental mistakes early on but luckily at the very end I didn't."
Bowers completed 29 of 49 throws for 301 yards and two touchdowns, one in the first overtime, but was intercepted twice.
The Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) wasted leads of 21-7 and 28-14 before holding off the Bears (4-4, 1-4).
That bodes well for coach Rich Rodriguez's team, which is heading into the meaty portion of its schedule. Arizona next plays No. 15 Washington State in Tucson followed by a road game at No. 11 Southern California on Nov. 4.
"The difference at the end just came down to making plays," Rodriguez said. "They had a good play called. We just had a freshman step up and make a big play."
Tate continued to give Arizona's offense a lift. The Wildcats sophomore quarterback has rushed for 694 yards and passed for 468 in three games since replacing Brandon Dawkins.
The two teams combined for 984 yards of offense.
Arizona outrushed California 345-172, a big chunk coming on Tate's 76-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Wildcats did so despite losing running back J.J. Taylor to an ejection in the first half.
California tied the game in the fourth on Patrick Laird's 8-yard touchdown run with 5:07 remaining in regulation. The two teams then exchanged field goals before Arizona missed a chance to win in regulation when Tate's deep throw was intercepted by Ashtyn Davis at the California 1.
"It wasn't the two-point play decision that decided that game," Bears coach Justin Wilcox said. "Obviously that's the one that stands out because it was the last play and there was a lot riding on it but there were so many plays in the game and we're not in that position if we can make them."
This was a big win for Rodriguez's team. The Wildcats had two players ejected and lost linebacker Tony Fields to an injury in the fourth quarter but hung on for the win. They did it after twice blowing 14-point leads. With the next two games coming against ranked opponents, Arizona has a chance to prove its worth in the Pac-12.
Arizona returns to Tucson to host No. 15 Washington State on Oct. 28. The Wildcats have dropped two straight and three of four to the Cougars.