Cal kept in dark against No. 12 Utah with 4th straight loss

Al Sermeno/KLC Fotos/Courtesy

Related Posts

The Bay’s power outage just got a little bit darker.

Cal football went from the blackout in Berkeley to the blackout game in Salt Lake City against the No. 12 Utes, and given the 35-0 routing the Bears suffered, “dark” hardly describes the occasion. The romping marks the first shutout Cal has experienced since 1999, a full two decades ago. At least Utah was kind enough to wear all black to the Bears’ funeral.

Cal rolled a noticeably injury-riddled lineup onto the field of Rice-Eccles Stadium, with the likes of green players such as linebacker Ben Hawk Schrider and receiver Ben Skinner seeing action at the opening whistle. Most conspicuously of all, however, even more so than safety Ashtyn Davis playing receiver, was third-string true freshman quarterback Spencer Brasch making his debut game against one of the biggest, baddest teams in the Pac-12.

The runnin’ Utes wasted no time embarrassing the Bears and tacking onto their conference-leading rushing yards while doing so. Utah had already notched triple-digit yards by the time it took its first timeout with five and a half minutes left in the first quarter thanks to running back Zack Moss’ behemoth 69-yard drive early on.

The Utes’ second drive was 99 yards in and of itself, starting on the 1-yard line and ending with Moss’ school record-breaking 32nd career rushing touchdown. Their next touchdown, which came just minutes later, also started within the Utes’ 10-yard line and was punctuated by a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Huntley to Bryan Thompson.

But Utah didn’t stop there — a 72-yard drive brought into the end zone by Jadon Redding put even more points on the board, vaulting the Utes over the struggling Bears 21-0.

What? You thought they were done scoring? With just 20 seconds left in the half, the Utes made it to the end zone one last time in that half via Brant Kuithe to make it 28-0, marking the most points the Bears have given up since the UCLA game in 2018 in which the Bruins shocked with a 37-7 upset win over the favored Cal.

Like much of Northern California at the moment, the Bears had absolutely no power over the Utes’ offense — with six of eight third-down conversions completed and 351 total yards in the first half alone, Utah’s 28 first-half points came with relative ease. Cal itself did not make it past its own 37-yard line on offense after its second possession and only made it across the half field once in the entire game.

Even given Utah’s poor field position on many a play, the Utes found a way to consistently break their way past Cal’s defense. The Bears displayed once again that its entire 11-man spread is no match for dual threat quarterbacks — both Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels and Utah’s own Tyler Huntley couldn’t be kept in the pocket for much longer than it takes to say, “Look out! He’s running it … again!”

The second half looked a lot more like pinball than it did football at the outset, but within minutes, the Utes had settled back into their utterly dominant play and proceeded to further worsen the Bears’ night. An early touchdown in the third via Moss put the same amount of points on the board as there were minutes played up to that point, making it 35-0 Utes. By the end of the game, Utah had 473 total yards to Cal’s 83 — more than five and a half times more than the Bears.

For as obviously as Utah’s offense baffled the Bears, its defense gave Cal just as hard a time and made Brasch’s efforts to connect with receivers largely in vain. Devin Lloyd, Julian Blackmon and Leki Fotu all caused trouble for Cal and completely paralyzed the Bears’ offensive production.

A team whose first drive was a third-and-out silenced a school known for being outspoken. “If it was one thing, we would do the drill and fix it. It’s not one thing,” said Cal head coach Justin Wilcox. “We’ve got to tackle better, we’ve got to be better at the run game, we’ve got to cover better — tonight we didn’t do any of that.”

But there were (minimal) bright spots to the otherwise disappointing and lightless Cal performance. Brasch certainly has potential and exhibited impressive athleticism despite a dismal stat sheet with only seven completed passes out of 19 attempts. For a third-string quarterback in a situation like this, having your first career start against a highly ranked and incredibly powerful team, he performed with respectable control.

“I thought Spence handled it well in terms of his demeanor,” Wilcox said. “Obviously we didn’t get much going on offense, but I thought his disposition and the way he handled the offense and getting in and out of the huddle and those type of things were good.”

Evan Weaver also matched his career-high 22 tackles, and Kuony Deng followed suit with 16 of his own. Additionally, the Bears’ upcoming bye week will allow them time to marinate in their mistakes and adjust their game accordingly.

“We never go into a game expecting to lose or expecting to lose in that fashion,” said offensive lineman Jake Curhan. “That’s not what our expectations are. We go into every game expecting to be able to grind it out and come away with a victory. It’s been a long time since we’ve played a game that felt this way.”

Even given the gruesome outcome, the Bears remain hopeful. “There’s a certain way that we do things here,” Curhan said. “Just because the outcomes haven’t been what we wanted, that doesn’t compromise our principles.”

Emily Ohman covers football. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilyohman34.