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Football: Cal vs. Sac State game thread

Click here to read my game story and see staff photographer Kristopher Skinner’s photo slideshow.

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FINAL: Cal 55, Sac State 14. The Bears, at 2-0, have exceeded their victory total of all last season. They will enjoy a bye week before opening Pac-12 play at Arizona on Sept. 20. Sac State is 1-1. Cal finished with 579 yards to 302 for the Hornets. Cal used 75 players, including five quarterbacks. Sac State finished with 302 total yards, but had just 15 net yards on its first eight possessions before coach Sonny Dykes pulled his first team.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Cal 55, Sac State 14. After Griffin Piatt’s interception in the end zone prevented the Hornets from creeper closer than 48-14, Sonny Dykes returned his first offense to the field. They needed just three plays to cover 80 yards, as Goff passed 55 yards to Trevor Davis, then fired a 12-yard TD pass to Chris Harper. Goff, who is surely finished for the day, is 17 for 22 for 229 yards with four TDs. He has seven TDs in two games this season. Cal’s yardage edge through three quarters: 507-266. One stat the Bears can’t be happy about: 10 penalties for 100 yards.

HALFTIME: Cal 45, Sacramento State 7: The Hornets avoided the shutout by scoring off Cal’s second defense in the final minute of the half. Some quick numbers: Cal with 398 yards to 82 for Sac State. Rush: Cal 152 yards, Sac St minus-12. Cal has 19 first downs to 9 for the visitors. Goff is 15 for 20 for 162 yards and 3 TDs. Rubenzer is 3 for 4 for 84 yards and a TD, and has rushed 6 times for 34 yards and another score. Lasco has 8 carries for a career-best 89 yards.  Sacks for the Bears: Scarlett, Barr & freshman Devante Downs. I would expect we would see Goff for one more offensive series (at the most) and that senior Austin Hinder gets some serious chance to play the rest of the rest. Also look for those freshmen RBs Tre Watson and Vic Enwere.

END OF FIRST QTR: Cal 28, Sac State 0. Well, that was decisive. Three TD passes for Jared Goff — who has six after five quarters this season — and one by freshman Luke Rubenzer. Goff is 8 for 11 for 76 yards, Rubenzer 2 for 2 for 73 yards. Sac State QB Garrett Safron is 3 for 9 for 31 yards. Cal has 197 yards to 26 for Sac State. First downs are 9 to 3. Average yards per play 8.2 yards for Cal, 1.6 yards for Sac. The Hornets have some defensive issues.

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A beautiful late morning at Memorial Stadium. A smallish crowd so far, with the players about to take the field for the opening kickoff.

Cal wins the coin toss, elects to receive the opening kickoff.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffFaraudo

 

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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

 

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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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Basketball: Alcorn St is opening foe in 2K Classic

Alcorn State will visit Haas Pavilion for a Friday, Nov. 14 game that will serve as Cal’s season opener and its first game of the 2K Sports Classic.

Kennesaw State visits on Sunday, Nov. 16 in a second-round game.

Regardless of how the Bears fare in their first two games, they will advance to New York’s Madison Square Garden for games Nov. 20 against Syracuse and Nov. 21 against either Texas or Iowa.

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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.