Unsportsmanlike conduct penalty mars otherwise stout first half for Cameron Saffle, Cal defense

BERKELEY -- Cal takes a 14-10 lead into halftime, but cost itself with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Cameron Saffle.

BERKELEY -- Even with Khalfani Muhammad out, California still dedicated itself early to running the ball, with three rushes (one counted as a pass, because it was a forward pitch to Demetris Robertson lined up in the backfield) and three passes on the Bears' first drive, ending on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Davis Webb to -- Who else? -- Chad Hansen, just 1:20 into Cal's afternoon tilt against Utah.

The catch by Hansen -- his seventh touchdown grab of the season -- ended with a trademark Hansen celebration. Instead of Horns Down or Forks Down, he decided to go up, up and away, pantomiming the Superman shirt rip.

Two drives later, it was Robertson who took flight, motioning into a fly sweep and then breaking away downfield, pulling away for a 39-yard touchdown catch to put the Bears up, 14-0.

Cal largely abandoned the run after the first two drives, though, rushing just seven total times for 43 yards before halftime, while passing 22.

The Bears defense -- Cameron Saffle in particular -- bent, but did not break. The Bears gave up 74 yards in the first quarter, holding Utah to a 2.3 yards per carry average, 23 total rushing yards and pressuring six times, with three of those coming from Saffle, who made his collegiate debut last season against the Utes.

That first quarter -- the second of the last seven in which Cal has held an opponent scoreless -- also cost the Utes starting center J.J. Dielman (who was carted off wearing a boot) and star receiver Tim Patrick, who had posted three straight 100-yard games for Utah.

But, Patrick returned in time for the Utes to run off a 21-play, 95-yard, 9:08 scoring drive against the Bears. Cal had a chance to get off the field on third down and eight, after a Luke Rubenzer and Khari Vanderbilt tackle for loss on Zack Moss, but for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Saffle, who drew his thumb across his throat throat after an incomplete pass to the back of the end zone, which gave the Utes first-and-goal at the 5, instead of fourth-and-eight. Two plays later, Armand Shyne rumbled in for a touchdown, cutting the Utah deficit to 14-10, with two minutes to go in the first half.

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