TEMPE, Ariz. -- 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.