Cal football dismantles Sacramento State, 55-14, to start season 2-0

Football Hayat

Ariel D. Hayat/Staff

With a simple flick of his wrist, quarterback Jared Goff gave the Cal football team a lead it would not relinquish. The go-ahead four-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Kenny Lawler came just four minutes and 22 seconds into the game, before Sacramento State even had a chance to possess the football.

When the Hornets finally gained possession, they didn’t hold onto the ball for long. On Sacramento State’s third snap of the game, Cal defensive end Todd Barr broke free from his blocker and took down quarterback Garrett Safron, knocking the ball loose. The ball took a fortuitous bounce toward the Hornets’ end zone, and the Bears eagerly claimed possession.

Another fade to the right corner of the endzone, this time from Goff to Maurice Harris, pushed Cal’s lead to 14-0. When the Bears forced a punt on Sacramento State’s next possession, the rout was on. Backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer, used primarily for his wheels last week against Northwestern, hit Darius Powe on a simple drag route across the middle of the field. Powe beat his man with ease and, with blockers ahead of him, coasted into the endzone for a 60-yard touchdown.

Racing out to a quick 21-0 lead that eventually turned into 28-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, Cal (2-0) kicked off its home schedule with a 55-14 thrashing of the FCS Hornets (1-1) at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. The Bears scored touchdowns on their first six possessions. Goff, sharp from the opening drive, completed 77 percent of his passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns in just over two quarters of playing time.

“He was very efficient. He made good decisions with the football,” said head coach Sonny Dykes. “The game has slowed down for him.”

On both sides of the ball, the Bears were simply too athletic for the Hornets. Offensively, Cal picked on Sacramento State’s defensive backs by lofting three fades to the right corner of the end zone in the first quarter and letting its receivers go up and get the ball. All three balls were perfectly placed by Goff, and all three resulted in touchdowns. And as far as the run-game goes, Cal’s big men dominated the trenches as its rushing attack flourished, scoring two touchdowns.

Even though the Bears feature a rushing attack that rotates through different backs, Daniel Lasco took advantage of his opportunities. In the first quarter, Lasco rumbled for a gain of 13 to Sacramento State’s eight-yard line, breaking tackles and parrying away defenders with his arm in the process. Later, in the second quarter, Lasco displayed his quickness and vision, dancing around multiple tackles before escaping for a 50-yard touchdown run.

“It just takes a lot of pressure of myself and the rest of the offense,” Goff said of Cal’s rushing attack. “It allows us to be multidimensional.”

Defensively, Cal’s defensive line manhandled its opposition. First it was Barr, jarring the ball from Safron for a sack-fumble. Then it was Brennan Scarlett, also forcing a Safron fumble, though the Hornets regained possession. Still, the Bears’ defense forced two turnovers.

“The defense did a really really good job of creating some turnovers … pressuring the quarterback,” Dykes said. “That settled everybody in a little bit.”

At halftime, Cal held a 45-7 lead, scoring four touchdowns through the air and two on the ground. Meanwhile, Sacramento State was nearly blanked, only scoring a touchdown with 48 seconds remaining left in the half.

“That’s exactly how it’s supposed to go,” Goff said of the offense’s performance.

In the second half, neither Goff or Rubenzer took the first snap. Instead, senior Austin Hinder took over behind center. As a result, Cal’s offensive productivity dropped, only scoring 10 points the rest of the way. The same can be said for the Bears’ second-string defense in the second half, as Safron gashed the Bears for a 73-yard touchdown run off a read-option in the third quarter.

After a muffed punt, Dykes sent Goff and the first-stringers back in. The result was another Goff touchdown, reminding the Hornets what the score could have been if Dykes had allowed him to play in all four quarters.

“Our players have heard how lousy they are for a long time now,” Dykes said. “It’s a good thing they didn’t listen to it.”

Sean Wagner-McGough covers football. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @seanjwagner.

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