The game started in picture perfect fashion for the Golden Bears. Dykes set the tone early when presented with a fourth and goal from the one yard line, he decided to go for it and the result was the first of three Jared Goff touchdown passes, this one to Bryce Treggs capping off a very impressive 18 play first drive to start the season.
Cal jumped out to an early 17-0 lead. They were paced by stellar play from Goff, and surprising contributions from true freshman quarterback Luke Rubenzer, mostly in the running game. The two quarterback system made its appearance on the third play of the game when Rubenzer came in for Goff, took the snap and ran it up the middle for an 11 yard gain. This added wrinkle gave Cal an extra element, that it seemed Northwestern didn't prepare for.
Goff ended the day with 281 yards and 3 TD's with nine different players catching passes in the game. He had a very good showing, and though the entire offensive performance was good there is still room for improvement.
7 different players rushed the ball, and Rubenzer led the group with 11 rushes for 48 yards.
Trevor Davis provided Cal's biggest offensive play on a 76 yard streak in which he blew by the safety assigned to him and he took the ball into the end zone for his first score as a Cal Bear.
Art Kauffman's group impressed in his debut as the defensive coordinator, they had one slip up which came on a 54 yard touchdown from Siemian to Cameron Dickerson on a crossing route. Other than that blemish, they had a very solid day in which they only allowed 354 total yards.
Brennan Scarlett, Michael Barton, and Jalen Jefferson all performed very well and the secondary showed the improvement that we had been seeing in practices leading up to the season opener.
Despite jumping out to 31-7 lead on a Khalfani Muhammad rushing touchdown in the second half, Cal allowed Northwestern to battle back to within 7 points aided by a Collin Ellis interception on a Lasco drop, because of course Ellis came up with his third tipped pass interception in his career against the Bears....
Jefferson stepped up on Northwestern's last offensive series as they were seeking to tie it up after the Cal offense stalled late in the fourth quarter and gave the ball back to the Wildcats score to 31-24 with about 3 minutes to go in the game.
Northwestern had moved the ball down to the Cal 27 yard line, looking like they were going in for the score, Jefferson came on a blitz and brought down Trevor Siemian for an 11 yard loss on the sack. On the very next play, Jalen dropped back into coverage and brought the interception on the tip after Michael Barton got a hand on the pass over the middle.
The Bigger Picture
Sonny Dykes finally gets his first win against an FBS opponent as the head coach of the Golden Bears and what a great time for this result, getting revenge for one of their most painful losses last season.
All of the positives that we've seen coming into the season seem to have come to fruition in this contest. I predicted that Cal would play Northwestern close and have a chance to win at the end, but jumping out to a 31-7 lead was a huge surprise to many.
The first steps to a major turnaround have been taken, and though Cal still faces a brutal schedule in the Pac-12, it was nice for Bear's fans to see a performance like they saw on Saturday. They turn around to face Sacramento State in their home opener next week, so they should have a chance to work out a few more kinks and extend their win streak to two games!