Cal started off the first quarter with a pretty nice looking drive that did not end well. Stud QB Jared Goff made some good connections with WRs Kenny Lawler and Maurice Harris and even sprinkled in a nice 8-yard scamper of his own. On 3rd and 6 yds to go, Goff threw a laser pass to an in-slanting Lawler, but Lawler took his eye off the ball for a split second and it sailed through his hands, off his facemask, and intercepted by Utah's Marcus Williams.
Cal's defense stood strong against Utah's offensive possession, forcing a punt. Then, on the ensuing possession for Cal, RB Daniel Lasco was brought in for his first play (RB Khalfani Muhammad started the game) and proceeded to fumble the ball, giving it to Utah on Cal's 18-yard line. For a second time, Cal's defense stood tall and only gave-up a field goal to Utah.
On Cal's next possession, Muhammad got a nice rumbling 21-yard run, followed by Goff throwing an amazing long bomb (35 yards) to an outstretched WR Trevor Davis for a touchdown! This one had the TV commentators (Brian Griese, in particular) salivating over Goff's accuracy and timing - let the Goff-NFL superlatives flow!
On Utah's next drive, RB Devontae Booker blew past Cal's defense for a couple nice runs, including a 40-yard TD run to cap it off. Cal's defense did not look good at all on this play - too many missed tackles. But, to be fair, Booker is going to be playing in the League someday and looked the part on this drive.
Cal then finished the first quarter with Goff picking-up his second INT of the night. On another laser pass to an in-streaking Lawler, Utah's Dominique Hatfield just beat Lawler to the ball and got the nice pick. At the end of the first quarter, Goff completed 5 of 9 passess for 74 yards, 1 TD, and 2 INTs (that weren't really his fault as Lawler missed the catches both times). On the ground, Muhammad looked good - we'll see if HC Sonny Dykes puts Lasco back in after dropping his first and only carry.
Cal ended the first quarter down 7-10.
Utah's offense and special teams came out pretty ineptly to start the 2nd quarter. Cal's run defense stuffed Booker and Utah RB Britain Covey three times to force Utah to try for a field goal. Utah's PK Andy Phillips (normally a pretty surefire kicker) missed on the 48-yard try. The football gods are giving Cal a break after those two unfortunate INTs in the first quarter.
Cal put together a nice drive on the next possession. Goff spread the ball nicely to Harris and TE Stephen Anderson, coupled with strong carries from RBs Muhammad, Tre Watson, and Vic Enwere. On a fantastic catch and run by WR Darius Powe, WR Bryce Treggs was flagged for pass interference for blocking a Utah DB - this killed the drive and forced Cal to punt.
On Utah's next offensive possession, Cal's defense stood strong yet again. Cal stuffed Booker on three different runs, allowing less than 4 yards each time. Then, Cal's Trey Turner intercepted Utah QB Travis Wilson! Wilson was trying to thread the needle to an out-streaking Britain Covey in the middle of his flat route.
With the ball back, Goff used some really nice play-action to complete passes to Davis (7 yards) and Anderson (30 yards). Goff then threw another pass to Lawler in the back of the endzone, which Lawler proceeded to drop (again). On 3rd down, tried for Lawler again in the right side of the endzone - Lawler missed on the catch again. At this point, we've got to be wondering if Lawler is losing confidence after causing 2 INTs and missing all sorts of catches that he usually would never miss. Cal settled for an easy 22-yard field goal.
The next sequence of events was just bizarre. Facing all sorts of pressure, Utah's Travis Wilson threw an INT to Cal's Devante Downs. Then, Goff threw a pick right back to Utah (via the Utes' Justin Thomas). Utah wasted no time in capitalizing on Goff's mistake - after a few stronger Devontae Booker runs, Wilson chucked it downfield to WR Cory Butler-Byrd for 54-yard TD catch. Cal's defense got caught looking at Booker with Wilson's play action on this one.
Then, things got a little uglier for Cal. Goff threw a deflected pass that was ultimately intercepted by Utah's Gionni Paul. But, to be fair, according to TV replays, Paul did not actually catch the ball as it hit the ground first. Cal fans are not going to be happy about that this one. Because it then leads to a Devontae Booker rushing TD to put Utah up by 2 TDs.
On Cal's last possession of the half, Goff drove the Bears down the field, including a 50-yard pass to Trevor Davis down the middle of the field. Goff then capped it off with a TD pass to Powe!
Overall, this was a pretty disastrous half for both QBs. Goff picked-up 4 INTs and Wilson with 2 INTs of his own. Cal's offense was pretty one-dimensional with a nearly nonexistent run game - Utah's run game was stellar with Devontae Booker getting 19 carries for 133 yards and 2 rushing TDs.
Cal finished the first half down 17-24.
Utah got the ball to start the 3rd quarter and it really looked like the Devontae Booker was on tap. Booker got the ball five times in a row and picked up 38 yards on the ground. Cal's pass defense then stepped-up and forced several Wilson incompletions. Utah settled for a FG. Utah then forced Cal to kick a FG - but PK Matt Anderson missed the 40-yard try. (Anderson also missed on a PAT last week against Wazzu.)
After some stout defense by both sides, Cal forced a fumble by Utah's Booker. Cal then quickly capitalized on the Utes' mistake with a rushing TD by Tre Watson!
Both teams made some very good defensive adjustments coming out of halftime, hence the back-and-forth by both teams with minimal scoring in this quarter. Cal's offense was clicking well whenever it got the chance to. But, Utah's defense applied lots of pressure with their front 4 and 7 - Cal's O-line looked just a bit smaller and slower. Utah's offense achieved what it wanted to coming into the game - holding onto the ball and taking time off the clock. That meant a lot of carries by Booker and Wilson to eat up time. Cal's defense looked to be wearing down in this quarter - missing a lot of tackles and letting Booker look really dominant on his runs.
Cal finishes the 3rd quarter down 24-27.
Utah starts the 4th quarter with a 40-yard field goal by Utah's Andy Phillips. Cal followed that up with a pretty inept possession resulting in a punt back to the Utes. Then, Utah punted it back to Cal. Both teams' defenses continued to hold-up strong in the 4th quarter.
On Cal's next possession, Goff threw his 5th pick of the night (2nd to Dominique Hatfield). When Cal got the ball back (on its own 5-yard line), Goff used his feet to make some big runs as well as a few short throws to get all the way to Utah's 21-yard line. But, after some suspect play calling (shot at the endzone to true freshman WR Kanawai Noa), a dropped ball by Treggs, and a blocked pass to Darius Powe, Goff & Co ran out of time and downs to pull-off the upset.
The offensive pocket continually collapsed on Goff in the second half of this game. He had minimal time to make plays and almost always ended-up getting hit every play. Cal's O-line just didn't hold-up well this game. With any lesser of a QB, this game would've been completely out of reach.
Cal loses the game with a final score of 24-30.
The Final Word
Utah did not play great, but they've got real athletes on both sides of the ball. Devontae Booker is a beast and got over 125 yards after contact this game. Travis Wilson was average through the air, but had some nice icing runs in the 2nd half to kill the game clock.
Cal had this game in reach, no doubt about it. The Utes made a lot of mistakes and let Cal hang around all night long. If Cal's receiving corps had a few less dropped balls and the run game had a few more long runs, Cal fans would be in a celebration mode. Rather, our O-line was destroyed over and over again and our normally trustworthy wideouts failed to convert on some key throws, thus we're all left asking, "What if...."
Cal gets next weekend off - our guys will need that time to heal-up from this bruising in Salt Lake City. Good fight, men, good fight.