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Cal football looks to jump on Sun Devils early

Cal vs. UCLA homecoming weekend 2010, cal won!
Cal vs. UCLA homecoming weekend 2010, cal won!

If the first half of California’s 2010 season is any indication of how Saturday’s pivotal matchup with ASU will go, fans might want to get to their televisions early.

Other than the Golden Bears’ (3-3, 1-2 Pac-10) 10-9 loss at then No. 14 UA, each contest they’ve played in was a blowout.

Just how bad was it?

The winning team in the five other Cal games outscored the loser 239-62.

Where confusion — and parity for that matter — sets in is no one seems to know which way the points will flow before game time.

It’s the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

After losing back-to-back road games against Nevada and UA, Cal came home and destroyed a UCLA team that was coming off a monumental upset over then-No. 7 Texas.

But just a week later, the same Golden Bears squad fell completely flat against Southern California, losing 48-14.

“You are a little bit more concerned with a loss like last week because of how things snowballed,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. “But a one-point loss at Arizona hurts quite a bit, too. Any loss hurts. [But] we've never been in a game where something snowballed like the first half the other day. It's important to make sure that we talk about that.”

USC outscored Cal 42-0 in the first half of last week’s game.

“I don't think I've ever felt like that after a game before,” senior defensive back Chris Conte said. “A lot of people kind of questioned what happened but I think a lot of people think that's not who we are, and especially I can speak for the defense.”

The answer to which Golden Bear team shows up on Saturdays might just come down to where the team is playing.

On the road, Cal’s opponents have beaten the Golden Bears by a combined total of 110-54.

At home, however, Cal has outscored visitors 139-17, winning all three contests.

“As an offense for the communication it's a lot easier at home because the crowd's quiet and you can concentrate on your job,” senior quarterback Kevin Riley said. “It's almost like every other year you see teams that have a good home record and bad away record, and then sometimes it flips, so it's hard to explain.”

The game Saturday is in Berkeley.

“We've been getting on people early [at home] and that's the plan [this week], just get on [ASU] early and kind of make them play out of their game,” Riley said. “We've just got to continue to roll and offensively we've just got to do something for a whole game.”

For the Golden Bears’ offense, getting star junior running back Shane Vereen going against the Sun Devils’ (3-3, 1-2 Pac-10) front seven will be key.

“[We’ve] been game-planning for them the last two or three days and they're very good,” Tedford said. “The whole front seven that they have is very physical and very athletic, so they can bull-rush you and they can beat you with speed as well.”

Vereen is averaging 105 yards per game, while the ASU defense is second in the Pac-10 against the run.

“Another solid defense we're going to face and I'm thinking [they] will bring a little bit more zone pressure after last weekend because we kind of struggled with it,” Riley said. “Their secondary has improved since last year, but they've got some big guys up front [too].”

Last year in Tempe, Cal drove 74 yards in just under three minutes and hit a game-winning 24-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to defeat ASU, 23-21.

“There's no question that in preparation you watch that game in your film study,” Tedford said. “Kevin played a great game and had a great drive at the end of the game to win the game.”

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