Berkeley, Calif. • It looked like the perfect time for Southern Utah to play California.
Sandwiched between the Golden Bears' season opener against Nevada and back-to-back games against Ohio State and USC, the Thunderbirds were perfectly positioned to be overlooked by Cal.
California lost to Nevada last week, 31-24, and now desperately needs a victory before going on the road against 14th-ranked Ohio State and No. 2 USC.
"We expect them to be ultra-motivated," Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb said.
Like Cal, SUU could also use a victory, although playing a Pac-12 opponent for the first time in school history probably isn't the best way of getting it.
The Thunderbirds come off a 34-3 loss at Utah State, where they fell behind 21-0 in the first 11 minutes and never recovered.
"Our guys, once they got used to that speed of the game, competed very hard," Lamb said. "â¦ I don't think we won the last three quarters, by any means. But we played much better. There was improvement."
One week away from its home opener against New Mexico Highlands and two weeks before its first Big Sky Conference game, Lamb wants to take another step forward against Cal.
"It's just a matter of getting better," he said. "That's the reason we schedule these games. Utah State made us better.
"I'm encouraged by the way our guys fought back against them. We're a better team going into Berkeley."
For the Thunderbirds to pull off a monstrous upset, preseason All-American quarterback Brad Sorensen must play well. He was only 12 of 31 for 153 yards against Utah State.
Southern Utah at California
P At Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.
Kickoff • 1 p.m. MDT
TV • Pac-12 Networks
Radio • 91.1 FM
Records • Southern Utah 0-1; Cal 0-1
Series • First meeting
About the Thunderbirds • They come off a 34-3 loss at Utah State, where they managed 12 first downs and 209 yards of offense. ... They have never played a Pac 12 opponent. ... They have 25 players on the roster from California.
About the Bears • They are 5-0 against FCS-level opponents, winning by an average score of 51-8. ... Two Cottonwood High products are on the roster and listed on the two-deep: senior RB Isi Sofele and junior DE Kent Kafusi.