BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)—Kevin Riley passed for 240 yards and two touchdowns, Shane Vereen continued his march up California’s career scoring charts and the Golden Bears bounced back from their most lopsided loss of the season to beat Arizona State 50-17 on Saturday.
Vereen rushed for 91 yards and scored his 12th and 13th touchdowns this season while Chris Conte scored on a 17-yard blocked punt return for Cal (4-3, 2-2 Pac-10).
Arizona State (3-4, 1-3) scored its only touchdowns on a blocked punt return by Oliver Aaron and a 25-yard fumble return by Clint Floyd. The Sun Devils, who were coming off a bye, played the second half without quarterback Steven Threet due to injury.
Riley, heavily criticized following his performance in Cal’s 48-14 defeat at USC a week ago, started off slowly before throwing a 4-yard score to Keenan Allen and a 52-yarder to Marvin Jones. He missed a third touchdown when his 6-yard pass to Jones just before halftime was overturned by replay.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who has been among Riley’s critics, stood by his senior quarterback after Riley threw two costly interceptions against USC and said he would remain the starter the remainder of the season.
It paid off against the Sun Devils, who hadn’t played since beating Washington 24-14 on Oct. 9.
Riley completed 19 of 29 passes and did not throw an interception for the third time in four games.
Vereen scored on runs of 8 and 5 yards, giving him 26 career rushing touchdowns. That moved him into a fifth-place tie with Justin Forsett on Cal’s all-time list. Russell White holds the record with 35.
All four of Cal’s wins this year have come at Memorial Stadium, which is set to undergo a $300 million renovation next year. The Bears, who are 0-3 on the road, will play their 2011 schedule at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Arizona State wouldn’t have minded a change in scenery this year. The Sun Devils haven’t won in Berkeley since beating the Bears 28-21 in 1997 and have lost eight of the last 10 meetings overall between the two schools.
Coach Dennis Erickson’s team looked rusty from the beginning.
Before leaving at halftime, Threet threw two interceptions and was out of sync all afternoon despite Cal being without starting cornerback Darian Hagan. Threet went into the game second in the Pac-10 in passing yards but completed only 9 of 17 attempts for 130 yards.
Neither of his backups, Samson Szakacsy and Keelan Johnson, fared much better. The duo combined went 8 for 17 for 52 yards.
Sun Devils running back Deantre Lewis, who rushed for 100 yards or more in each of his first three games, managed only 15 yards on six carries on the rain-slicked turf. Arizona State had only 51 yards rushing overall.
Vereen’s first touchdown, set up by a 28-yard punt return from Jeremy Ross and 20 yards in penalties against Arizona State, put Cal up 10-3. Vereen took the handoff from Riley and started to his right, cut left, then came back around the right end for an 8-yard score.
Riley followed with his short score to Allen, then launched a 52-yard strike to Jones, who had to turn around with his back to the end zone to catch the ball at the 3-yard line and stumbled in for the touchdown.
Giorgia Tavecchio kicked field goals of 40, 23 and 26 yards for Cal.
The Bears reached 50 points for the third time this season, following back-to-back 52-point games in their season-opening wins over UC Davis and Colorado.
Cal led 26-3 at halftime, then blew the game open with two big plays in a span of 2:18 of the third quarter. Vereen capped a short scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown run and Conte followed with his blocked punt and subsequent return to make it 40-3.
Ross later had a 32-yard punt return that set up his own 19-yard touchdown run, pushing Cal’s lead to 50-10.
Hagan started at cornerback in Cal’s previous six games but was relegated to special teams against Arizona State and suffered an unknown injury early in the fourth quarter while covering a kickoff.