By Steven Herrera
It was Utah’s game to lose, and they almost blew it. It took six turnovers and a stand on fourth down with around 30 seconds left in the game to finally put Cal away.
Utah’s offense sputtered along most of the night and failed to break this game open, despite being given every chance to do so. The defense created six turnovers, which the offense could only convert into 17 points. Most of the offense’s woes were self-inflicting wounds coming in the form of penalties, bad execution, or poor play calling. Despite Devontae Booker going for a combined 267 yards, Utah could not find a rhythm and pick up where it left off from the Oregon game.
Travis Wilson took a step back this week. After putting together a masterful performance against the Ducks, Wilson only threw for 170 yards and one touchdown. Wilson’s 170 yards passing is the same amount Grambling State had against Cal’s defense in week one. If that isn’t alarming enough, there were the two interceptions Wilson threw on consecutive drives. Both were awful decisions and completely Wilson’s fault as he threw right into coverage both times. To be fair to Wilson, his receivers did not help much, as the quarterback was often left scanning the field with nobody getting open. Regardless, Utah needs better quarterback play in order to keep winning going forward.
With Wilson and the passing game struggling, Devontae Booker put the offense on his back. Booker accounted for just over 61% of Utah’s offense on 34 carries for 222 yards and four receptions for 45 yards and two touchdowns. This is the kind of performance that had Booker’s name being mentioned as a Heisman candidate. When the offensive line managed to create huge holes and wide running lanes, Booker broke off good runs and often had to be brought down by the last defender. When Cal’s defense sniffed out the run, Booker found a way to fall forward and make something positive happen. Amazingly enough, both of Booker’s touchdown runs were incredible individual efforts, as neither were blocked particularly well. How Booker managed to squeeze through the line of scrimmage and then tiptoe along the sideline for his first touchdown of the game was simply magical. His second touchdown was impressive in it’s own right, as Booker showcased his great athleticism by bouncing off his own blocker and cutting back to the left side for an easy score.
Despite Booker’s season high rushing performance, the game ball goes to the Utah defense. Saying the defense played a great game does not do their performance justice. Time after time the unit picked up the slack from the offense and created havoc for Jared Goff and Cal’s offense. Five interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and a couple of sacks is more than anyone could have asked for, especially going against one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Just when it seemed like the defense had already given everything they had, Boobie Hobbs made a great play on the ball and sealed the victory for Utah. Outside of a beautiful pass on a go route in the first quarter and a screen pass right before halftime, Utah’s defense controlled the Cal offense. The bend doesn’t break mentality held Cal’s offense below 30 points for the first time this season.
Going forward, there’s no question that Utah needs to find a way to establish a consistent attack through the air. Devontae Booker can only carry the offense so many times before it’ll come back to hurt Utah. Even the defense has areas to clean up and improve on. Yet, Utah finds itself at 2-0 in the Pac-12 with a 5-0 overall record and stands as the last undefeated team in the conference. Good teams find a way to win, and Utah keeps finding them, though admittedly, at the risk of giving the entire fan base a heart attack.