Opportunistic Utes pick off Cal Bears, become Pac-12’s lone unbeaten team

Utah Utes defensive back Marcus Williams (20) runs back an interception as the University of Utah defeats Cal 30-24 in PAC12 NCAA football Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Salt Lake City Utah. Photo by Tom Smart/University of Utah Sports Information

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah spent the last two weeks downplaying its rise to No. 5 in the polls. The Utes sent a message Saturday night that they have no plans on going anywhere but up.

utesCal BerkeleyThe team picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South is now the lone undefeated team remaining in the conference after a 30-24 victory over No. 23 California.

“We don’t feel pressure because we know what type of team we are,” Utah defensive back Boobie Hobbs said. “We feel like we’re the No. 1 team. We just want to show the world that we can play with the Alabamas, the LSUs. We’ve got the guys and we’ve got great talent.”

The Utes missed several opportunities to grab a sizable lead with erratic offense. Utah scored 17 of its 24 points off turnovers, but was held scoreless on two possessions after turnovers and settled for three on another. The seven-point halftime lead could have been much more had the Utes been able to put up more than three off two of Jarden Goff’s interceptions and Daniel Lasco’s fumble.

Utah running back Devontae Booker (23) carries the ball while being pursued by California defensive tackle James Looney (9) in the first half during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Utah running back Devontae Booker (23) carries the ball while being pursued by California defensive tackle James Looney (9) in the first half during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Utah had a season-high six takeaways, picking off five of Goff’s passes. Cal had one last possession and drove to the 21, but Hobbs knocked down Goff’s fourth-down pass with 26 seconds left.

Devontae Booker ran for a season-high 222 yards and two touchdowns and added a team-high 45 receiving yards for the Utes (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12). They sit alone atop to the conference and are firmly in the College Football Playoffs discussion.

“My offensive line deserves credit, they made it happen for me and I wouldn’t have over 200 yards without them,” Booker said. “Every week, I know I’m the focal point of the offense. Whether it’s receiving or running the ball or even blocking, I just got to do it all.”

Goff threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns. The Heisman contender couldn’t overcome the ball-control issues that put the Golden Bears (5-1, 2-1) in a hole.

The Utes entered the game with seven interceptions and Marcus Williams, Justin Thomas, Gionni Paul and Dominique Hatfield all picked off passes in the first half. Hatfield had another interception in the fourth quarter and Williams recovered a fumble.

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson finished with 170 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Photo courtesy Utah Athletics
Photo courtesy Utah Athletics

“I think we all wanted to win really bad, especially Jared,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “Sometimes when you want to win really badly, you might try and do a little too much.”

The first half took nearly two hours as the two teams combined for seven turnovers.

The Utes missed several opportunities to grab a sizable lead with erratic offense. Utah scored 17 of its 24 first-half points off turnovers, but was held scoreless on two possessions after turnovers and settled for three on another. The seven-point halftime lead could have been much more had the Utes been able to put up more than three off two of Goff’s interceptions and Daniel Lasco’s fumble.

Goff may have been a turnover machine with four first-half interceptions, which matched his season total from the first five games, but he never became tentative. The four interceptions were a career high and he had 30 minutes left to play. His first truly bad throw may have been the fourth-quarter interception to Hatfield when he threw off his back foot while being pressured. The Golden Bears were driving to tie the game.

The five interceptions were the most for Cal it had five against Arizona State in 1998.

“This is probably the worst game of my life,” Goff said. “But it’s going to have to be something I’m going to have to get better at and learn from.

“They are one of the best defenses in the country for a reason.”

Stats: Utah 30, Cal 24

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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