Perfect Storm: Cal Drowns ASU Under Offensive Deluge

Photo: Sean Cattouse had eight tackles and an interception in his first start of the season. The junior safety was used in the nickel formation.
Allyse Bacharach/Staff
Sean Cattouse had eight tackles and an interception in his first start of the season. The junior safety was used in the nickel formation.

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Cal vs. ASU

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Kevin Riley lay on the ground with his arms extended after defensive end James Brooks barreled in for a sack late in the third quarter.

Riley could have lain there a while longer and made snow angels if he wanted to.

On a cold, rainy Saturday, Memorial Stadium proved to be a warm, happy place for the Cal football team as the Bears blew out Arizona State 50-17.

The day really couldn't have gone worse for the Sun Devils or better for Cal, which was coming off arguably the worst loss of the Jeff Tedford era. That bitter aftertaste was wiped clean in a half and made sweet again in the following two quarters.

The Bears scored their first touchdown of the game on a carry by tailback Shane Vereen near the two-minute mark of the first quarter. Vereen appeared to have been stopped behind the line, but he looked left, saw the defense cheat in that direction and strolled into the right side of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.

"They ran it right at us with Vereen," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said. "Cal, when they can run the football can run their play action fake stuff with Riley and they made some plays. It was ugly."

The Bears worked Arizona State (3-4, 1-3 in the Pac-10) with short passes and screens early, which promptly opened up the scoring bonanza. Cal scored 16 points in the second quarter off a 4-yard pass from Riley to a sure-handed Keenan Allen, a 52-yard toss that Marvin Jones ripped out of the hands of the defensive back who was shadowing him and a 23-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio.

Allen finished with a touchdown and a career-high six catches, and Jones had four grabs for 110 yards.

"We attacked them with screen plays which made them stay honest," Jones said. "The big play potential was there."

The offense added more fireworks after the half. Safety Chris Conte blocked Trevor Hankins' punt at the ASU 17-yard line and raced it back to the end zone to put Cal up 40-3 with about three minutes remaining in the third quarter. Jeremy Ross got the Bears to the half century mark with a 32-yard punt return that set up his 19-yard end around scamper for a score.

The defense, too, reasserted itself.

The Bears (4-3, 2-2) won big on the turnover battle, picking off ASU starting quarterback Steven Threet twice and backup Samson Szakacsy, who spelled Threet after the starter came out with a concussion, once. Threet finished the day 8-of-16 for 125 yards, working under extreme duress for much of it as both linebackers and defensive tackles came rushing in time after time.

The swarming defense also stuffed the run all day: no ball carrier for the Sun Devils finished the day with more than 29 net yards rushing. They had 57 net rushing yards total.

"We realized they run heavily, and we had to focus on playing the run," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "The outside linebackers stepped up on creating edges. Our nose (guard) did work It disrupted their run a lot and helped us have a great game."

Sean Cattouse, who hasn't seen a lot of playing time this year, got the starting nod at safety and made his presence known in a big way. Cattouse made back-to-back third-down stops in the second quarter, nearly blasting wide receiver T.J. Simpson's head off on the second one. Cattouse added a pick to his stat line before halftime.

"This week of practice, I just wanted guys to let them know I was still here," Cattouse said. "I'm back."

With the win, the Bears stay undefeated at home and winless on the road. In their four wins at home, Cal has outscored its opponents 189-34; on the road, they're being trounced by a combined score of 110-54, a fact that has led to intense scrutiny and criticism over the past week. As to that, coach Jeff Tedford presented Saturday's win as Exhibit A in why Cal's season isn't over yet.

"It looked today by the crowd that some people have given up on us, but I'm proud of our team that they haven't given up on themselves," he said. "It was about heart, because that got questioned this week

"It was nothing but negative all week long outside the team, but the only ones who believed were in ones in that locker room."


Katie Dowd covers football. Contact her at [email protected]

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