There are two very opposite ways to view Cal's 50-17 throttling of Arizona State on Saturday, and nobody should know that better than the Golden Bears.

They have, after all, spent the season exhibiting a wildly divergent personality.

The Bears go on the road and enter hibernation, playing as if befuddled by the speed and precision of their opponents. They've lost all three road games, giving up a combined 100 points in two and being outscored 110-54 overall.

At home, however, the Bears have been perfumed money. They've rolled all four teams to enter Memorial Stadium, by a cumulative 189-34 score.

To put the contrast in more vividly illustrative terms, the average Cal road game results in a 37-18 loss, while the average home game is a 47-8 win.

"I wish I could bottle it," coach Jeff Tedford said of his team's success at home.

Though the quality of Cal's home opponents has been inferior to that of those on the road, the salient issue remains this: What conclusion, if any, may be deduced from this soggy victory over a Sun Devils squad that two weeks ago won at Washington?

It may be perceived as mildly encouraging for the Bears, insofar as it hints at the high-end possibilities. When Cal is good, it can be very good.

Or, with a 4-3 record (2-2 in the Pac-10) seven games into the season, it may be considered another maddening exhibition of the inconsistency Cal's coaching staff has spent the past month trying to decipher.

Going from a 48-14 catastrophe last week at USC -- the Bears trailed 42-0 at halftime -- to a 33-point trouncing of a team that had not lost by more than 11 points, and that was to top-ranked Oregon, can only leave everyone scratching their heads.

More to the point, it's bound to leave restless alumni wondering if this team ever will establish any direction.

"All you can do is practice hard, prepare hard and cut it loose every week," Tedford said. "That's what we do. I still don't think there is any game -- except maybe the (Nevada) game -- that we went out and schematically got hammered. I don't see an up and down team every week in practice.

"Obviously, what happens in the games says what it says. But I still love this team. I love their character. I love their work ethic. I'm proud of the way they bounced back."

The Bears on this day fairly sparkled. Senior quarterback Kevin Riley, who has struggled much of the season, affirmed his solid grip on the starting job, completing 19 of 28 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Wideouts Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen combined for 10 catches and 150 yards. Tailback Shane Vereen gained 91 yards.

And the defense was its typical (at home) smothering self, holding ASU to 57 yards rushing while picking off three passes and ringing up two sacks.

"It seems like we can either do really well," senior linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "Or it's going to be a blowout loss where we're not really competitive."

That's the rub. Cal's defense owns and gets owned; there is no middle ground. The offense generates points behind Vereen but excels only when Riley is on his game. The coaching staff appears lost one week but is superb the next.

Wondering from week to week which team is going to show up is an unsatisfying way to go through a season.

And, judging by the smallish crowd (51,599 announced) at Memorial Stadium -- affected by the damp weather, the Giants playoff run and that humiliating loss at USC -- it's not going unnoticed.

"It looked today, by the crowd, that some people have given up on us," Tedford said. "I'm proud of our team that they haven't given up on themselves."

The Bears had some explaining to do, and they did it on the field. They have done it on their field every time, without fail, yet fumbled and fallen on the road.

"I don't have a good answer for that," senior center Chris Guarnero said, "but (we're) looking forward to next week to try and correct that."

Failing to correct it at Oregon State and the following week at Washington State would put the Bears in position for a rather ignominious distinction. None of Tedford's eight previous teams at Cal has been below .500 at any time in November.

The good news for Cal is it has three more home games on its schedule. To win all three guarantees seven wins and bowl-eligibility.

The bad news? That bowl game would not be played at Memorial Stadium.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.

next saturday's game
Cal (4-3) at Oregon State (3-3), 12:30 p.m. Fox College Sports
INSIDE
  • Cal shows heart by blowing out Arizona State. Page 11