The Utah Utes publicized Saturday’s game against Cal as ‘blackout,’ but they forgot to tell everyone they were going to bring fireworks too.
The Utes played their most complete game of the year to blowout the Bears 49-27 in front of 45,017 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
It was an embarrassing 34-10 loss to the Bears last year that sparked Utah’s strong finish that landed them in a bowl game.
Saturday’s contest undoubtably was more fun for the Utes (3-5, 1-4), who must win three of their final four games to be bowl eligible this year.
The Utes used a strong running attack, a solid defense and some key plays by special teams to beat the Bears (3-6, 2-4).
Cal, which has had an up-and-down season similar to Utah’s, never mounted much of a threat once the Utes took the lead.
Utah, outscored 62-28 in the first quarter of its previous seven games, went up 14-3 in the opening quarter Saturday thanks to a 100-yard kickoff return by Reggie Dunn and a 17-yard fumble recovery by Reggie Topps.
Dunn also had a 100-yard return in the fourth quarter to become the first Ute to have two in a game and three in a career. He had his first 100-yard return against Iowa State in 2010.
The second quarter featured a Utah rushing attack unlike any Utah has displayed this year. Both John White and Kelvin York were utilized.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said earlier in the week he felt the two could be a good 1-2 punch for the Utes after the way York ran a week ago against Oregon State.
His hunch proved correct.
White finished with 22 carries for 105 yards, while York rushed 11 times for 51 yards and a touchdown before he left the game in the second half with an injury.
The backs did their most damage in the second quarter.
The Utes ran the ball on six of seven plays during the drive that led to York’s 1-yard touchdown run then rushed nine of 13 times during their final scoring drive of the half.
The Utes’ final drive of the half took 6 minutes, 17 seconds to complete and put the momentum firmly on the Utes’ side.
The biggest difference for the Utes from previous games was their ability to finish drives.
After punting on their first three possessions, Utah scored on four of their next five possessions to lead by as much as 42-6 late in the third quarter.
That the Utes could beat the Bears by dominating all phases of the game was a welcomed change for a Utah team that was getting desperate for a league win.
Now the Utes, who host Washington State next, have a realistic chance of making the postseason for the 10th year in a row.
Arizona (5-3, 2-3) is the only team remaining on Utah’s schedule with a winning record. The Wildcats upset No. 9 USC 39-36 on Saturday.