BERKELEY, Calif. -- Nate Longshore passed for 198 yards and three touchdowns in his return to the starting lineup, and California held off punchless Arizona State in the second half of a 24-14 victory Saturday.
Cal (4-1, 2-0 Pac-10) reopened its quarterback competition this week after the offense made slow starts in its last two games, and coach Jeff Tedford kept the winner's identity secret until Longshore ran onto the Memorial Stadium field.
Longshore went 17-for-28 with an interception, and the Cal offense failed to score after the opening minutes of the third quarter. The Bears still did enough to overcome the absence of injured Jahvid Best, the Bears' top rusher and receiver, because Arizona State barely moved the ball for long stretches of its third straight loss.
Shane Vereen rushed for 93 yards and caught five passes for 51 more in Best's place during a fairly simple victory over the Sun Devils (2-3, 1-1), whose offense sputtered for the third straight week. Last season's conference co-champions averaged 32.3 points per game in 2007, but this Arizona State squad has managed just 44 total points during its first three-game losing streak of coach Dennis Erickson's short tenure.
Rudy Carpenter passed for 165 yards and threw two interceptions, while Keegan Herring didn't do much to help the Sun Devils' struggling rushing attack, running for just 37 yards in his return from injury. Kyle Williams caught Carpenter's only TD pass.
Longshore has been booed regularly by Cal's fans over the past two seasons, but the senior remains a favorite of Tedford, the quarterback guru who sent Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers to the NFL.
Longshore took the field to scattered catcalls, but immediately led Cal on a strong opening drive that stalled inside the 5 on three incompletions. After Arizona State's Dimitri Nance fumbled, Longshore hit Cunningham with a diving 19-yard TD pass down the middle to put the Bears up 10-0 less than 10 minutes in.
Early in the second quarter, Longshore led another long drive culminating in Morrah's 22-yard TD catch. Arizona State finally got moving with a 70-yard drive culminating in Williams' 30-yard catch-and-run for a score midway through the period, but Cal extended its lead to 24-7 midway through the third on Boateng's second TD catch of the season.
The Bears blocked an Arizona State field goal attempt moments later, but were hit with a personal foul for jumping onto the line, allowing the Sun Devils to score on Herring's 8-yard run. Arizona State made two decent late drives, but Carpenter fumbled on a crushing sack by Zack Follett to kill the first, and Thomas Weber missed a field goal to finish the Sun Devils in the final seconds.
Best, Cal's versatile sophomore speedster, dislocated his elbow last week against Colorado State. He hopes to return at Arizona after Cal's upcoming bye week.