Collin Ellis returned each of his two interceptions for a touchdown to lead the 22nd-ranked Northwestern Wildcats over the Sonny Dykes-led California Golden Bears, 44-30, in the 2013 opener for both teams.
Trevor Siemian completed 18-of-29 passes for 276 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Wildcats (1-0), who are coming off a 10-win season and a victory over SEC school Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. The bowl victory was the program's first in a 64-year stretch dating back to the 1949 Rose Bowl, which also happened to be the last time these two teams squared off on the gridiron.
The news was not all good for Northwestern, which lost starting quarterback Kain Colter to an upper-body injury after its second play from scrimmage.
Treyvon Green carried the ball 16 times for 129 yards and two scores for Northwestern. Dan Vitale caught five passes for 101 yards and Tony Jones hauled in five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Freshman Jared Goff connected on 38-of-63 passes for 445 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions for the Golden Bears (0-1), who fired Jeff Tedford after last year's 3-9 finish. The school went out and hired offensive guru Dykes (Louisiana Tech) to run the show.
Chris Harper caught 11 passes for 151 yards and two scores in defeat.
California kicker Vincenzo D'Amato made a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it a 27-27 game.
Following a punt from each team, Northwestern took over at its own three. Christian Jones caught a 10-yard pass on third down to move the chains. On the next play, Vitale caught a 53-yard pass to move the ball to the California 12. The Wildcats, though, had to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Jeff Budzien.
On the ensuing California possession, Ellis recorded his second interception of the contest. He went 40 yards for a touchdown and a 37-27 Northwestern lead with 7:57 to play.
Richard Rodgers' 14-yard catch and a 15-yard face mask penalty moved the Golden Bears deep into Northwestern territory. After Goff was sacked on third down, D'Amato made a 37-yard field goal to make it a seven-point game.
California quickly got the ball back when Alex Logan picked off Siemian. But Ibraheim Campbell followed with an interception of his own, giving the Wildcats the ball back.
Northwestern kept the ball on the ground and Green scored from six yards out to make it 44-30 with 1:51 remaining.
Dykes, who helped Louisiana Tech lead the nation in scoring offense (51.50 points per game) and total offense (577.92 yards per game) last season, used a trick play to California in the end zone on its first drive of the game. Instead of kicking a field goal, D'Amato threw a 10-yard TD pass to Jackson Bouza.
Green responded with a 33-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession to make it 7-7.
Jones' 19-yard TD catch early in the second quarter made it 14-7 Northwestern. The score was 17-10 at the half following a field goal from each team.
Budzien's 19-yard field goal early in the third stanza made it 20-10. But a pair of Harper touchdown catches put the Golden Bears in front by four, 24-20.
However, Ellis' 56-yard interception return for a touchdown put Northwestern back in front with 4:40 left in the third.
Each team turned the ball over three times ... California racked up 548 yards of total offense, compared to 508 for Northwestern ... Goff became the first true freshman ever to start the season opener for the Golden Bears.