Cal has matched last season's win total. And even if the Golden Bears lose every game the rest of the season and have consecutive 1-11 seasons, 2014 is already better than 2013 because of that lone win.
The Golden Bears' 31-24 win over Northwestern Saturday was the first time Cal beat an FBS-level team since topping Washington State on Oct. 13, 2012. Yes, almost two years, and coincidentally, the same day that Georgia State last won a game before winning on Wednesday night against Abilene Christian.
Last season, Cal's only win came against FCS Portland State. And it was by seven. Of its 11 losses, one was against Northwestern, who beat Cal 44-30.
It wasn't even close to that on Saturday. Cal stormed out to an early lead thanks to two touchdown passes by sophomore Jared Goff. Goff, who was Cal's primary QB last season as a freshman, completed 21-34 and finished with 281 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Northwestern, meanwhile, looked much more like the team that finished 2013 on a seven-game losing streak before beating Illinois in the season finale than the team that started last year 4-0.
QB Trevor Siemien, now without the shadow of Kain Colter, both on the field at quarterback and off the field with a union movement, was inefficient, only completing 23 of his 43 passes. The loss of Venric Mark, the potential sixth-year senior star at running back, was evident. Justin Jackson had eight carries for 40 yards and Treyvon Green had 13 carries for 37 yards.
The highlight of Northwestern's day was a trick play for a TD. But it only cut the deficit to 31-21. After a fourth quarter field goal to make Cal's lead seven, Northwestern's potential game-winning drive went flat.
The victory could also be the start of a two-game winning streak for Cal. Next week, the Golden Bears play Sacramento State, another FCS school. A 2-0 Cal is incredibly possible.
However, we won't get ahead of ourselves. Cal has five ranked teams on its schedule, plus games at Arizona, Washington State and at home against BYU. Bowl aspirations seem unlikely. But this is a good start for coach Sonny Dykes' second season and a sign that a turnaround is possible.
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