Coming into this week, Utah had lost its last four games and was still seeking its first victory against a Pac-12 opponent. Cal, fresh off a 21-3 drubbing by Stanford, needed a big win on the road. With the season now past its halfway point, this game was crucial to each team’s hopes of salvaging a bowl berth.
The Utes played like their season was on the line and whipped Cal to the tune of 49-27, a result that included two fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Bears once the game was already decided.
With the Bears record falling to 3-6, they now find themselves in the position of needing to win the final three games on their schedule to become bowl eligible.
The tone of the game was set within the first few minutes. Cal strung together a few positive plays on its opening drive before settling for a 49-yard field goal. Ute wide receiver Reggie Dunn responded with a 100-yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff to give the Utes a lead that they'd never relinquish..The rest of the game saw Cal similarly failing to take advantage of its opportunities while Utah looked dominant in all phases of the game.
Utah struggled to get its offense going early on, but the Ute defense kept the momentum going, forcing wide receiver Chris Harper to fumble on the Bears’ third possession. Reggie Topps scooped up the ball and returned it for a 15-yard score.
Cal opened the second quarter with Vincenzo D’Amato’s second field goal of the night, pulling the score to 14-6, but that would be all for the Bears in the first half, as they would net just four yards through the remainder of the period.
Utah’s offense had better luck, capitalizing on an interception off a tipped ball from Maynard, and turned two long drives into rushing touchdowns in the second quarter, thanks to running back Kelvin York and freshman quarterback Travis Wilson. With that, the Utes took a prohibitive 28-6 lead into halftime.
The third quarter would be more of the same, as a stout Utah defense forced Cal to turn the ball over on downs and caused Maynard to fumble. Despite an interception in the end zone by Michael Lowe, Wilson was able to command his team down the field for two more scores, both capped off with runs from star back John White.
Brendan Bigelow saw his first carry of the game with under a minute remaining in the third quarter. He capitalized on the opportunity, eluding tackles at the line of scrimmage before escaping for a 57-yard touchdown. Cal could not keep the momentum however, as Dunn would return the following kickoff for his second touchdown of 100 yards. Bigelow finished the night with 72 yards on two carries and a reception.
Isi Sofele was the featured back, seeing 12 touches for 47 yards. C.J. Anderson had 3 carries for 10. The Utah backfield was much more productive, as John White ran for 105 yards to complement his two scores, and York added 51 yards of his own.
The fourth quarter saw more action through the air, as Maynard would end the scoring with passing touchdowns to Keenan Allen and Richard Rodgers. Chris Harper had the biggest night of any Cal receiver, pulling down seven catches—including a few impressive grabs of errant balls from Maynard—for a total of 86 yards, and Rodgers added 69 of his own. Allen’s five catches (61 yards) was also good enough to pass Geoff McArthur for most career receptions in Cal history. Allen now has 205.
Unfortunately, none of that production was enough to match Utah. Maynard (20/32, 288 yards, 2 TDs) outperformed Wilson statiscally (16/24, 156 yards), but he suffered four sacks, turned the ball over twice, once on a fumble and once on an interception. Utah’s special teams and defensive play seemed to overwhelm the Bears, who fall to 3-6 (2-4 Pac-12).
The Bears must win their last three games to reach bowl eligibility, but that won’t be easy, starting with next Friday’s tilt against the Washington Huskies, which upset #7 Oregon State this weekend in Seattle. The game, which kicks off at 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time, will air on ESPN2.