BERKELEY -- Cal coach Sonny Dykes and his staff entered fall camp without a clear idea of how they might use freshman quarterback Luke Rubenzer.

So Rubenzer made the decision for them.

After the Scottsdale, Arizona, native practiced at a "pretty high level" the first week, Dykes waited for him to become physically or mentally overloaded. He waited for Rubenzer to slam into the "freshman wall."

"He just kept getting better," Dykes recalled. "During that period of time, when guys normally take a step back, he took a step forward."

So Rubenzer did more than win the backup quarterback job. He convinced the coaches they had to find a way for him to contribute now.

On Saturday at Northwestern, in a move that surprised the Wildcats, Rubenzer came off the bench repeatedly to provide the Bears a running quarterback counterpunch to starter Jared Goff's throwing prowess.

He was the game's leading ground gainer with 48 rushing yards on 11 attempts, and three times negotiated first downs. The last of those, inside the final minute, came on a mis-executed play and clinched Cal's 31-24 victory.

"The offensive line went the wrong way and (running back) Daniel Lasco did a great job of picking up that unblocked player so Luke could get that first down," Dykes explained Tuesday during his weekly news conference.


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Dykes utilized quarterbacks with running skills while at Louisiana Tech because he sees the tactic as a numerical equalizer against the defense. When the defense crowds six players into the box against five offensive linemen, the running back becomes a sixth blocker.

"That's why the quarterback run game gives people fits," Dykes said.

Dykes is convinced that Rubenzer can continue to be effective even when the opponent has a scouting report, beginning Saturday against Sacramento State.

"He's a quarterback. He's not some running back we're putting back there in a wildcat deal," Dykes said of Rubenzer. "We can run our offense with Luke back there, and it gives us a little bit different dimension."

  • Asked to grade the offensive line's performance at Northwestern, guard Chris Borrayo said his group deserved no better than a B-minus or C-plus.

    "The thing we thought we were going to be pretty good at was our run game and that's the thing we need the most work on," said Borrayo, referring to the Bears' 2.5 yards-per-attempt average on running plays.

  • Sacramento State, in its debut under former Weber State coach Jody Sears, routed Incarnate Word of San Antonio 49-13. Senior quarterback Garrett Safron threw five touchdown passes, boosting his school-record career total to 57.

    "He's a really good player," Dykes said of Safron. "You put the tape on and it becomes obvious immediately that he's very experienced. You can see that by how he handles himself. The ball is always out on time, he has great touch, and he can drill the ball when it needs to be. And he's mobile enough to be a problem."

  • The Hornets' offensive line coach is Bill Laveroni, 66, who played center at Cal in the late 1960s and later had three stints as a coach at his alma mater. Laveroni, who spent six seasons coaching the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line, will compete against Cal for the first time in 20 years, when he was an aide at San Jose State.

  • The seven first-half points the Bears allowed to Northwestern were the fewest they'd surrendered before halftime since Nov. 2, 2012 at Washington State. Over the previous 14 games, Cal opponents averaged 28.1 points in the first half.

    For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.

    Saturday's game

    Sacramento State (1-0) at Cal (1-0), noon. Pac-12 Networks