Trevor Siemian came off the bench after an injury to Kain Colter on Northwestern's second play of the game and proceeded to carve up the Cal defense and lead the No. 22 Wildcats into the locker room with a 17-10 edge at halftime.
Siemian completed 15-of-20 passes for 199 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He came on in relief after Colter was knocked woozy after a six-yard run and completed 10 of his first 11 throws, the last of which was a perfectly lofted 19-yard TD strike to Tony Jones to give the Wildcats a 17-7 lead.
Cal followed that with an 84-yard drive that ended with a 28-yard Vincenzo D'Amato goal to close the gap to one score just three seconds before halftime.
Northwestern got off to a shaky start, as Cal marched 82 yards in 10 plays on its first drive to take a 7-0 lead. Brendan Bigelow racked up 55 yards on the first three snaps and Jared Goff completed all four of his passes as the Bears reached the NU 10-yard line. There, they pulled off a fake field goal on fourth down as D'Amato threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to holder Jackson Bouza.
The Wildcats may have been wobbled, but they quickly responded as Colter hit Dan Vitale on a 19-yard shovel pass on their first play. Colter was drilled after delivering the pass on that play, and he left the game after running for six yards and absorbing two more blows on the next one. Northwestern has officially labeled it an "upper body injury," and he will not return.
Just three plays later, Treyvon Green busted through the middle and scampered away from his pursuers for a 33-yard touchdown to even the score.
Northwestern controlled the game from that point until Cal's final drive of the half. The defense forced Cal to punt on its next five drives, and the Wildcats overcame a Siemian interception to mount two straight 11-play scoring drives. The first resulted in Jones' TD catch, the second in a 35-yard Jeff Budzien field goal.
In addition to the injury to Colter, Northwestern cornerback Daniel Jones left the game near the end of the half with what appeared to be a leg injury and will not return. Running back Venric Mark also missed long stretches of the half.
Matchup: No. 22 Northwestern (0-0) vs. California (0-0)
Time: 9:30 p.m. CT
Place: California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif. (cap. 63,000)