Cal looking to go 2-0 for first time since 2011
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) Not long after returning from California's season-opening win over Northwestern, Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff sensed a change in the atmosphere around campus.
Often criticized and in some ways shunned by the alumni during a one-win season in 2013, Cal's players received a much warmer welcome than they did at any time a year ago. In classes, at local restaurants and at just about every corner in town, fans have been quick to offer praise and congratulations.
''Just the buzz around the community, I can tell, is so much better,'' Goff said. ''It's just a lot of fun right now. That's a big win for us ... but by no means are we done.''
The goal for the Bears is to keep that happy feeling going.
Cal (1-0) hosts Sacramento State (1-0) at Memorial Stadium on Saturday with an opportunity to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since beating UCLA and Washington State in 2012.
Goff passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns in the 31-24 win over Northwestern, marking the fourth time in his 13-game career that the sophomore quarterback has thrown for three scores or more.
The Bears had to hold off a late surge by the Wildcats then cut loose with a celebration.
To keep his players from getting overly excited, though, Cal coach Sonny Dykes scheduled an early afternoon practice less than 12 hours after the team's arrival back on campus.
''I was a little concerned how they would come back, if they would start feeling a little too good about themselves,'' Dykes said. ''But I got the sense on Sunday that they were able to put it in perspective.''
A win over Sacramento State would give Cal its first 2-0 start since 2011. After that, the Bears open a rough Pac-12 schedule that includes four games against teams in the Top 25.
Dykes likes what he's seen from his squad so far after the brutal 1-11 season last year.
''They've done a pretty good job of tuning everything out from the outside,'' Dykes said. ''There's been a lot of criticism of them and the program and everybody. They did a good job of not paying attention to it.''
Here are some things to watch when Cal plays Sacramento State:
QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE: While Goff remains the unquestioned starter, the Bears showed a new look when they rotated in freshman QB Luke Rubenzer for a handful of series. Rubenzer is much more agile and mobile than Goff and rushed for a team-high 48 yards on 11 carries. He also passed for 19 yards.
Goff embraced the switch.
''It didn't really affect my rhythm as some people think it might have,'' he said. ''I knew I was going to go right back in.''
GROUNDED BEARS: Dykes had hoped Cal's running game would alleviate some of the pressure on his young quarterbacks. The Bears put up 114 yards on the ground against Northwestern but didn't have a single back with more than 23.
Part of the problem was miscommunication between the running backs and offensive line.
HORNETS NEST: This is only the second meeting between Cal and Sacramento State. The two teams last met in 2005 when the Bears rode the talents of current NFL players Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson to a 41-3 win.
The Hornets put up 49 points in their season-opening win over Incarnate Word, getting five touchdown passes from quarterback Garrett Safron in a little more than two quarters of playing time.
NEW-LOOK DEFENSE: Cal's defense, the biggest reason the team struggled as much as it did in 2013, looked much better against Northwestern. Linebacker Jalen Jefferson tallied a career-high 16 tackles and made a game-clinching interception in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman made sweeping changes upon his arrival, switching several players around. Only three players on the defense are playing the same position as they did a year ago.