Yours truly, along with a smattering of CGBers and a few hundred of our closest friends wearing blue and gold, attended the "official" California Alumni Association tailgate party before Saturday's game between the California Golden Bears and Northwestern Wildcats. Cal interim Athletic Director Michael Williams introduced himself to our group and offered us some of his insights about the Cal team and the upcoming game. He gave us a vague and intriguing parting shot as he departed our conversation to meet other alumni:
"Sonny [Dykes] has a surprise for today," Williams said to us.
Immediately, visions of trickeration danced in my head. What would this "surprise" be? On the game's third offensive play, we had our answer. And it had nothing to do with trickeration. On first-and-10 from the Cal 32 yard line, a player made his debut in a Cal uniform. Luke Rubenzer entered the game for starting quarterback Jared Goff.
Nope, no redshirt for the true freshman quarterback. And the rookie immediately announced his presence with authority, dashing 11 yards for a first down on a designed quarterback run. Rubenzer was in the game for four more plays on the opening drive, which Goff capped with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Treggs on a 4th-and-goal.
A surprise appearance from the backup freshman quarterback, an 18-play, 6+ minute opening drive, and a touchdown on a fourth and goal play: quite a start to the 2014 season.
"They gave me an idea that they were going to put me in depending on how well the game goes, so I didn't know exactly when it was going to be," said Rubenzer. "But I knew it was probably going to come eventually."
Rubenzer's surprise notwithstanding, this is still Goff's team. Rubenzer offered the Bears a nice change of pace, but Goff is the one who completed 21 of 34 passes (with a few drops among the incompletions) for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Goff made three particularly memorable throws during a first half that saw the Bears take a 24-7 halftime lead:
- On 3rd-and-12 from the Cal 31 on the Bears' second offensive series, Goff scrambled and bought himself what seemed like an eternity before finding Darius Powe Jr. for a 40-yard gain;
- Five plays after the pass to Powe, Goff zipped a pass through a tight window for a 7-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Lawler; and
- On the first play after Northwestern cut Cal's lead to 17-7, Goff threw a picture-perfect deep ball to Trevor Davis, who caught the ball in stride and finished a 76-yard touchdown play.