California hosts Sacramento State in its 2014 home opener one week after hanging on for a thrilling 31-24 victory at Northwestern last Saturday. The Golden Bears will be facing Sacramento State for just the second time in school history with the first meeting ending in a 41-3 Cal victory in the Bears’ season opener in 2005. The Bears have won 10 of their last 12 home openers.
In last week’s victory over Northwestern, Cal scored on its opening drive just like in the 2013 meeting between the teams. Quarterback Jared Goff found wide receiver Bryce Treggs for a one-yard touchdown on the opening drive that consisted of 18 plays. Goff threw two more touchdown passes to help Cal build a 31-7 lead. Northwestern cut the lead to 31-24 before Jalen Jefferson came up with an interception on Northwestern’s final drive in the fourth quarter to clinch the win for the Bears.
On the third play from scrimmage in last week’s win at Northwestern, quarterback Luke Rubenzer rushed for an 11-yard gain. Rubenzer carried the ball 11 times for 48 yards, the most by a quarterback since Zach Maynard rushed for 78 yards against Washington State in 2012. Rubenzer was Cal’s leading rusher against Northwestern.
• Linebacker Jalen Jefferson set a career high in tackles with 16. Late in the fourth quarter, Northwestern was in Cal territory, driving for the game-tying touchdown when Jefferson came up with a sack followed by an interception to seal the win for Cal. Jefferson ranks tied for sixth in the nation and tied for first in the Pac-12 in tackles.
• Quarterback Jared Goff completed 21 of 34 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns against the Wildcats. Goff now has seven multi-touchdown games in his career and it was his fourth game throwing for three or more touchdowns.
• Goff spread the wealth around last Saturday, connecting with nine different receivers. Wide receiver Kenny Lawler hauled in five receptions for 38 yards and his sixth career touchdown to lead the Cal receiving corps. He was one of five Bears to catch at least three passes.
• Cal’s biggest offensive play of the day against Northwestern was a 76-yard touchdown pass from Goff to wide receiver Trevor Davis. The touchdown was the second-longest in Goff’s career after an 89-yard scoring pass to Chris Harper against Washington State in 2013. The touchdown was the first in Davis’ Cal career as he registered a game-high 93 yards receiving on three catches.
• After an injury-plagued 2013 season, some key defenders returned to action against Northwestern including defensive end Brennan Scarlett and defensive tackle Mustafa Jalil – both of whom missed the entire 2013 season – and safety Stefan McClure – a converted cornerback who missed the final seven games a year ago. In addition, Austin Clark returned for his sixth season at defensive tackle after missing the majority of the last two campaigns due to injury. McClure posted seven tackles last week.
• A total of 22 Bears made their debuts last week, including eight true freshmen.
• ESPN ranks Cal’s schedule as the third toughest in the nation. Five of the six toughest schedules belong to Pac-12 teams.