Oct. 27, 2007
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- No. 7 Arizona State followed a familiar script to stay perfect.
The Sun Devils spotted No. 18 California a 13-point first-quarter lead, then rallied for a 31-20 victory on Saturday night. Dimitri Nance ran for three touchdowns and Rudy Carpenter threw for 219 yards and a touchdown as the Sun Devils overcame a double-digit deficit at home for the third time.
Arizona State (8-0, 5-0) took over first place in the Pac-10 and set up a high-stakes showdown with No. 5 Oregon next week in Eugene -- a game that will have national title implications.
The Sun Devils can now comfortably call themselves national championship contenders. Students rushed the field to celebrate ASU's first victory over a ranked opponent this season.
Nate Longshore threw for 261 yards and a touchdown and also threw two interceptions for the Golden Bears (5-3, 2-3 Pac-10), who dropped their third straight. Cal has plunged from No. 2 in the country to sixth in the conference in 21 days.
First-year ASU coach Dennis Erickson improved to 27-15 against the Top 25. Erickson and his staff have become noted for their halftime adjustments, and they made the right ones on Saturday night as Arizona State shut out the Golden Bears in the second half. The Sun Devils have outscored opponents by a combined 153-29 after halftime.
The Sun Devils spotted Cal a 13-0 lead after one quarter. The Golden Bears struck first when Rulon Davis sacked Carpenter, forcing a fumble. Cameron Jordan, a freshman from nearby Chandler, recovered and returned the ball 13 yards for a touchdown.
Jordan Kay kicked two field goals, from 41 and 22 yards, to make it 13-0.
No problem. The Sun Devils have been there before.
They gave Colorado a 14-0 first-quarter lead before storming back for a 33-14 victory on Sept. 8. Two weeks later, ASU trailed Oregon State 19-0 after one quarter before rallying for a 44-32 victory.
This time, the rally began with a defensive stop. Arizona State held Cal to a field goal on first-and-goal at the 5 late in the first quarter, and instead of facing a 17-0 deficit, the Sun Devils trailed only 13-0.
The stop inspired the offense, which shook off some early struggles and marched 59 yards on its next possession. Nance scored on an 11-yard run to cut the lead to 13-7 early in the second quarter.
California answered with an 89-yard march. The Bears scored touchdowns on consecutive plays. The first was called back on offensive pass interference on DeSean Jackson, who caught a 22-yarder to make it 20-7 on the next play.
Nance scored again from 2 yards out to make it 20-14 late in the first half. The play capped a 12-play, 65-yard drive, and the Sun Devils gained 45 yards on the ground.
The Sun Devils opened the second half by stopping Cal at midfield, then marching 91 yards in nine plays. On fourth-and-1, Nance scored on an 8-yard run to give ASU a 21-20 lead.
Carpenter had 45 yards passing at halftime and 70 on the scoring drive. He finished with 17-of-29 completions for 219 yards and a touchdown.
The Sun Devils went 67 yards in 10 plays to set up a 47-yard field goal by Thomas Weber, his 15th consecutive successful field goal.
ASU clinched the victory with fourth-quarter interceptions by Justin Tryon and Robert James and a 12-yard touchdown pass from Carpenter to Kyle Williams.