Less than three weeks ago, it looked as though California's season was spiraling out of control following blowout losses to Oregon and USC.
After a bye week and a win at UCLA, the Golden Bears appear to have righted their course and are once again brimming with confidence.
Coach Jeff Tedford told his team to come back from the bye week as if it was a new season and that's just what the Bears have done.
"The previous two weeks we got smoked both games. We had to do something," quarterback Kevin Riley said. "Our goal is to go undefeated after the bye week, which is very possible for this team. We've just got to continue that this week."
Cal (4-2, 1-2) hosts Pac-10 doormat Washington State (1-5, 0-4) on Saturday, starting a stretch of three home games in four weeks that could get the Bears rolling again.
"It was very vital for us to bounce back," receiver Marvin Jones said. "We always say 10-2, 10-2. That means this season can still be great for us. That was just another step for us."
Cal entered the season with high hopes of ending a 51-year Rose Bowl drought and made it up to No. 6 nationally following a 3-0 start. But the Bears then lost 42-3 at Oregon and 30-3 at home to USC to open the conference season, raising questions about whether they were headed toward another collapse.
That all changed with a 45-26 victory at UCLA that gave Tedford his first win in eight trips to Los Angeles. Even though the defense gave up 448 yards and the offense failed to score a touchdown in the second half, the win did wonders for the psyche of the Bears.
"It was like we had won the Rose Bowl," cornerback Josh Hill said. "We were so excited to finally get back on the winning streak. We just need to keep it going."
One of the biggest concerns during those two losses was the play of Riley, who completed 27 of 71 passes, a 38 percent rate, for 322 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in that span.
He responded with three touchdown passes against UCLA, completing 14 of 23 passes for 205 yards against the Bruins.
"We just kind of regained what we started with," Riley said. "Like I said the weeks before, our offense knew we were going to score. We just had to get that first one in and we went from there and we did a good job throughout the game. We've just got to continue to work and get better this week."
The key this week for the Bears is to avoid overlooking the Cougars after winning last year's meeting 66-3 on the road. But the Bears still having many concerns that showed up in the two losses, they are not even paying attention to the opponent.
"It's about us, it's not about the other team that's playing," Tedford said. "It's about what we do on the field, how we prepare and how we practice, and then the focus that we take into the game."
Even though the Cougars have only one win this season, the Bears said they looked much tougher than they did a year ago, when they allowed two runs of more than 80 yards to Jahvid Best in the blowout loss.
Cougars coach Paul Wulff sees similar improvement even if that has not shown up in the results on the field.
"The attitude has been great," Wulff said. "It's been outstanding to be quite honest. It's night and day from what it was a year ago at this time. We're very young. We have young guys learning the ropes right now."
Wulff said the bye week helped Washington State's battered offensive line get healthier after allowing 12 sacks two weeks ago against Arizona State. Zack Williams, Steven Ayers and B.J. Guerra all could return from injuries this week, giving a big boost to freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel.
The biggest concern for the Cougars is finding a way to deal with Best, who had a spectacular 93-yard run last week against the Bruins and is averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
"This is our biggest test by far in defending a great runner with great speed," Wulff said. "We've got to be very gap-sound. If they hit it at full speed, they are hard to stop."
Associated Press Writer Nick Geranios in Spokane, Wash., contributed to this report.