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Football: Cal vs. Sacramento State facts

CAL vs. SACRAMENTO STATE

KICKOFF: Saturday, noon at Memorial Stadium, Berkeley.

TV: Pac-12 Networks. Radio: 810-AM.

RECORDS: Cal 1-0, 0-0 in Pac-12; Sacramento State 1-0, 0-0 in Big Sky.

SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads 1-0. The Bears beat the Hornets 41-3 in 2005.

STORYLINES: Cal tries to avoid a letdown against an FCS-level team and build on its 31-24 opening win at Northwestern. A victory would double the Bears’ win total of a year ago and provide nice momentum headed into a bye week. … Sac State has had some success against the Pac-12, with a 30-28 win at Colorado in 2012 and a 29-28 overtime win at Oregon State in 2011. Last season, the Hornets were mashed 55-0 at Arizona State. … The Bears hope to ramp up their ground game after getting just 77 rushing yards from their running backs against NU. … The Hornets are coached by Jody Sears, originally hired as defensive coordinator after last season, then promoted after head coach Marshall Sperber stepped down in April amid an inquiry into possible recruiting violations. Sears was 4-19 the past two seasons as head coach at Weber State.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: MLB Nathan Broussard (knee), Saf Quentin Tartabull (knee), RB Jeffrey Coprich (foot) and DE Harrison Wilfley (finger) are out; CB Darius White (shoulder) and Saf Avery Sebastian (quad) are questionable; Sacramento State: None reported.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal quarterback Luke Rubenzer vs. Sac State middle linebacker Darnell Sankey. Coming off the bench, Rubenzer stunned Northwestern with a game-high 48 rushing yards, three times negotiating first downs. He won’t have the element of surprise against the Hornets, who are likely to use 6-foot-2, 250-pound junior Sankey, a San Jose native, to track Rubenzer when he enters the game. Sankey had 10 tackles, forced a fumble and return an interception 59 yards for a TD last week against Incarnate Word.

STATS THAT MATTER: Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff’s three touchdown passes at Northwestern marked the seventh time in 13 career games he’s thrown multiple TD in a game. … Cal can start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2011. … Cal has averaged 49 points in its seven games against FCS opponents. … The Pac-12 has a combined record of 94-11 against FCS teams since 1978, when the NCAA began differentiating between what were then called Division I and I-AA programs.

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Football: Bears won’t take Sacto St for granted

Cal, which faces Sacramento State on Saturday in its home opener, is 7-0 all-time vs. Football Championship Subdivision opponents.

Coach Sonny Dykes knows the matchup might prompt yawns from some fans, but dismissed the suggestion this amounts to an automatic victory.

“They obviously haven’t coached in many of these games,” Dykes said. “These teams have won too many times to even go into it.”

Sacramento State has accounted for two of three wins by FCS teams over the Pac-12 in the past three seasons, and it was only a year ago that schools formerly classified as Division I-AA enjoyed their most startling weekend at the expense of the bigger Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

Seven FCS teams took down FBS opponents during opening week last season, including these three:

• Eastern Washington became only the third FCS team to upset a Top-25 team with its 49-45 win at Oregon State.

• McNeese State’s 53-21 rout of South Florida represented the most points ever scored by an FCS team against an FBS foe.

• North Dakota State solidified its status as the little program every FBS program should avoid with a 24-21 win over defending Big 12 co-champion Kansas State. Iowa State didn’t get the message in time to avoid a 34-14 loss last Saturday, extending the Bison’s streak to five seasons featuring an FBS victory.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

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Cal’s scores against FCS teams:

2013: d. Portland State 37-30

2012: d. Southern Utah 50-31

2011: d. Presbyterian 63-12

2010: d. UC Davis 52-3

2009: d. Eastern Washington 59-7

2006: d. Portland State 42-16

2005: d. Sacramento State 41-3

 

3

Football: Lynch, Seahawks rout Rodgers, Pack

Ex-Cal star Marshawn Lynch rushed 20 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns and the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks opened the NFL schedule with a decisive 36-16 win over the visiting Green Bay Packers.

Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times and intercepted once for the Packers. The former Cal star was 23 for 33 for 189 yards with a touchdown.

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Football: Wilfley breaks finger, to miss Sac St

Backup defensive end Harrison Wilfley broke a finger in practice this week, had surgery Thursday morning and miss Saturday’s home opener against Sacramento State, coach Sonny Dykes announced after Thursday’s practice.

The Bears have a bye next week and Wilfley could be ready to play Sept. 20 at Arizona, Dykes said.

Defensive backs Avery Sebastian (quad) and Darius White (shoulder), who missed the opener at Northwestern, remain iffy to see action Saturday.

“They’re still a little behind in terms of reps,” Dykes said. “We’ll kind of see how many snaps the other guys play.”

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Cal announced that senior Donovan Frazier has been placed on scholarship. A 6-foot-3, 285-pounder from Alhambra High and Laney College is a third-string offensive guard for the Bears.

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Football: Rubenzer’s strong camp forced coaches’ hand

Cal coach Sonny Dykes and his staff entered fall camp without a clear idea of how they might use freshman quarterback Luke Rubenzer.

So Rubenzer made the decision for them.

After the Scottsdale, Arizona, native practiced at a “pretty high level” the first week, Dykes waited for him to become physically or mentally overloaded. He waited for Rubenzer to slam into the “freshman wall.”

“He just kept getting better,” Dykes recalled. “During that period of time, when guys normally take a step back, he took a step forward.”

So Rubenzer did more than win the backup quarterback job. He convinced the coaches they had to find a way for him to contribute now.

On Saturday at Northwestern, in a move that surprised the Wildcats, Rubenzer came off the bench repeatedly to provide the Bears a running quarterback counterpunch to starter Jared Goff’s throwing prowess.

He was the game’s leading ground gainer with 48 rushing yards on 11 attempts, and three times negotiated first downs. The last of those, inside the final minute, came on a mis-executed play and clinched Cal’s 31-24 victory.

Click here to read the rest of this story.

And click here to see what kind of grade colleague Jon Wilner gave the Bears for their win at Northwestern.

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Football: Dykes reviews Northwestern victory

Here are a few highlights from Sunday evening’s media teleconference with Sonny Dykes:

 * Dykes’ overall impression of his team’s preparation and performance in its 31-24 win at Northwestern:

“I thought the guys had really prepared well. I thought we had a good camp. The focus over the 10 or 11 days we spent preparing for Northwestern was really good. It was what you want and it got better every day. I thought it showed, particularly early in the game. Guys were really locked in.

“Then we had a little success and quite frankly we might have lost a little of our focus at times. That’s unfortunately what young teams have a tendency to do. We had some opportunities in the second quarter to put the game away offensively and didn’t get it done when we had some good field-position opportunities.

“But the guys never panicked when they (Northwestern) got back in the game. I never got the sense that we lost control. Sometimes you feel that on the sidelines. I never felt that. They were excited after we won the ball game, but I think they realized there is a lot of improvement that needs to be made.”

* On being unable to put away Northwestern after mounting an early, big lead:

“We’ve got to learn how to have a killer instinct when we get a lead on somebody. We don’t have a lot of experience with that.

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Football: Sunday morning reactions

Wow, after the first weekend of Pac-12 games, it’s tempting to revise our view of where Cal fits into the picture.

Washington State loses in Seattle to a mediocre Rutgers team that traveled 3,000 miles. Colorado loses to in-state rival Colorado State. Washington opens the Chris Petersen era with a 17-16 win at Hawaii, which was 1-11 a year ago. Oregon State is hardly overwhelming against Portland State.

Suddenly, you look at Cal’s schedule and there are more potential wins than we initially envisioned.

But I think it’s worth slowing down and letting this thing proceed at a reasonable pace.

Sure, the Bears’ 31-24 win at Northwestern was a significant breakthrough. It also was a flawed victory, exposing much that must improve.

Here’s what I liked:

– Jared Goff played very well for most of the game. He threw three touchdowns, including a beautiful 76-yarder to Trevor Davis on a play where he got the safety to bite to nicely faking a dump-off to the left flat. His one interception was on a ball off the hands of Daniel Lasco. (And Goff never again has to face NU linebacker Collin Ellis, who has intercepted him three times in two seasons).

– The change of pace with freshman quarterback Luke Rubenzer caught the Wildcats off guard and was very effective. He was the best running threat on either team. Rubenzer was quick and decisive and seemed not the least bit nervous.

– The defense was light years better than a year ago. All you need to remember is Cal surrendered 335 first-half points a year ago, and held Northwestern to seven through two quarters. The Bears made a couple big stops to turn back NU drives and Jalen Jefferson made the play of the day with his late-game INT. Do you really believe last year’s defense would have figured out a way to turn back the opposition in the fourth quarter as the Bears did Saturday.

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Football: Cal-Northwesten game thread

FINAL SCORE: Cal 31, Northwestern 24. OK, you may now exhale.

Click here to read my game story. And my notebook, focusing on freshman Luke Rubenzer.

END OF 3RD QUARTER: Cal 31, Northwestern 21. Well, at 31-7 it looked like the only way the Bears could lose this game was by giving NU some help. And they did just that, when Goff’s pass went off the hands of Lasco and was picked off by LB Collin Ellis. You remember him, right? He had two INTs for TDs against the Bears last year. The Wildcats cashed in on the next play with a nice trick play: QB Trevor Siemian throws a lateral pass to WR Jayme Taylor, who then throws back to Siemian for the TD. That got the Wildcats within 10 points with 2:06 left in the 3rd Q. Cal has responded nicely so far, moving from its own 12 to the NU35, where it will have a first-and-10 when the fourth quarter begins.

HALFTIME: Cal 24, Northwestern 7. Goff was 12 for 18 for 186 yards with three TDs, one each to Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler and Trevor Davis. Cal has a 270-153 edge in total yards, a 14-7 edge in first downs. Hasn’t all been perfect: Cal’s four running backs have combined for 47 yards on 12 carries, just under 4 yards per. Rubenzer ran 9 times for 38 yards, but hasn’t played since being picked off on a pass he should have thrown out of bounds. Cal has held the lead for 23 minutes, 42 seconds — 14 minutes longer than the Bears were ahead of FBS teams all last season. Just one penalty vs. Cal — 5 yards for offsides on a kickoff. And the defense? Cal gave up a staggering 335 points in the first half a year ago, but allowed the Wildcats just one score in six possessions.

END OF 1ST QUARTER: Cal 14, Northwestern 0. Yep, it’s true. Goff threw TD passes of 1 yard to Bryce Treggs and 7 yards to Kenny Lawler and the defense got a stop on a fourth-and-one at its own 22 to snuff NU’s only possession of the game. The revelation has been the contributions of freshman QB Luke Rubenzer, on the field for at least 10 plays. He has run the ball eight times for 36 yards and completed 1 of 2 passes for 9 yards.

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Greetings from Ryan Field at Evanston, Ill.

It’s warm, humid, with scattered clouds. But the locals don’t think it will rain. We’ll see.

Will provide periodic updates all afternoon. Or follow me on Twitter at @JeffFaraudo

BTW: All present and accounted for on the Cal roster. DBs Darius White (shoulder) and Avery Sebastian (quad) both dressed and warming up, although still not convinced either will play.

 

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Football: Cal-Northwestern facts

CAL AT NORTHWESTERN

KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 p.m. at Ryan Field, Evanston, Illinois.

2013 RECORDS: Cal 1-11, 0-9 in Pac-12; Northwestern 5-7, 1-7 in Big Ten.

SERIES HISTORY: Northwestern leads 2-0, including a 44-30 win at Berkeley in 2013. The Wildcats also beat Cal 20-14 on Jan. 1, 1948 in the Rose Bowl.

STORYLINES: Both teams are eager to demonstrate they are much improved after disappointing performances a year ago. Sonny Dykes suffered through the worst debut season of any Cal coach in history, but the Wildcats were only marginally better. They lost their first seven conference games and their five wins came over teams who scored a total of 11 wins over FBS teams last season. They averaged 40.2 points in the wins, 16.0 in their defeats. … For Cal, improvement is expected everywhere, but especially with a defense that allowed 45.9 points per game and on offense in the red-zone, where the Bears converted just 21 of 43 chances for touchdowns.

INJURY UPDATE: Cal: MLB Nathan Broussard (knee), Saf Quentin Tartabull (knee) and RB Jeffrey Coprich (foot) are out; CB Darius White (shoulder) and Saf Avery Sebastian (quad) are questionable; Northwestern: WR Christian Jones (knee) and DT Sean McEvilly (foot) are out.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Cal’s offensive line vs. Northwestern’s defensive front. The Bears have been working and talking about running the ball since last season ended. Now we find out if it clicks. The Bears believe they have gotten tougher and stronger. That will be tested against a front four that averages better than 6-foot-4, 289 pounds per man. The Bears netted just 93 rushing yards vs. NU last year, forcing them to throw a school-record 64 passes.

STATS THAT MATTER: Cal’s 14-game losing streak to FBS opponents is twice as long as the next-worst drought in school history. … The Wildcats boast a 16-game home win streak vs. nonconference opponents. … NU is 8-0 in opening games under coach Pat Fitzgerald. … Cal gave up 551 points last season, more than the Bears allowed in 97 games over 10 seasons under coach Andy Smith (1916-25). … Cal has just three starters returning on defense from this game a year ago.

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Football: Bears’ revamped defense in 1st test

After nine months of reinvention in the wake of the worst defensive season in Cal football history, the Golden Bears reboot Saturday at Northwestern.

Here’s what has changed on defense since a gruesome 63-13 loss to Stanford in the Big Game: A new coordinator, two new position coaches, the return of key players who missed last season with injuries, and the arrival of newcomers recruited to fill holes and add depth.

Will the upgrades allow the Bears to be competitive against a schedule that ESPN ranks as the third-toughest in the nation?

“I like what I see,” coach Sonny Dykes said. “I have a lot of confidence in those guys, probably a lot more than I should based on what I saw last year.”

The Bears’ 1-11 season was defined by a defense that allowed 45.9 points per game last season — second-worst in the country and a school record by a significant margin.

Dating back to the end of the 2012 season, Cal has failed to hold an opponent under 30 points for 14 consecutive games. In 11 of those games, the other team scored 40 or more.

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