The one positive aspect of Cal's first seven games was that the Bears stayed close throught each game with a chance to win in the fourth quarter. That trend ended Saturday night in Salt Lake City against No. 12 Utah.
Utah smothered Cal 35-0, as the Utes took apart Cal's touted defense, and Bears freshman quarterback Spencer Brasch struggled in his first collegiate start.
It was the first time since 1999 that Cal was shut out, and the first time since 1994 the Bears failed to score in a conference game. It was also the biggest margin of defeat since Justin Wilcox became head coach prior to the 2017 season.
The statistics were just as one-sided. Utah had 23 first downs to Cal's six, and the Utes amassed 473 yards compared with 83 for the Bears, who had just 23 rushing yards. The one positive statistic for Cal was the 22 tackles linebacker Evan Weaver recorded.
Utah has outscored its last four opponents by a combined score of 146-23.
It was the fourth straight loss for Cal (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12), while Utah improved to 7-1 and 4-1. It's Cal's longest losing streak since 2016, when the Bears also lost four in a row. The last time Cal lost more than four straight games was 2013, when it dropped 10 in a row.
It ended Cal’s streak of 14 straight games in which the Bears held opponents to fewer than 25 points. It was also the first Cal game against an FBS opponent this season that was decided by more than 10 points.
Brasch became the first freshman quarterback to start a game for Cal since Jared Goff in 2013. Brasch completed his first two passes but finished 7-of-19 for just 47 yards. He was under pressure much of the game.
Cal redshirt freshman quarterback Robby Rowell played a few downs at the end of the game.
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley limped noticeably throughout his time on the field as the result of a leg injury, and he played only the first half, which ended with Utah holding a 28-0 lead. Nonetheless, he started and completed 11-of-17 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown.
Utah running back Zack Moss rushed for 115 yards and added 89 receiving yards.
The game was virtually over at halftime, when Utah held a 28-point lead.
The Utes had 351 yards in the first half compared with 55 for Cal. The Bears recorded two first downs on their first possession, but totaled only three for the first half while Utah had 15.
Hunley passed for 214 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and three of his passes were dropped. Moss had 65 rushing yards and 89 receiving yards at halftime.
Brasch was just 3-for-10 for 20 yards in the first half.
Utah scored first on a seven-play, 99-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter. The key play came on second-and-10 from the Utah 25-yard line. Huntley dropped the snap on that play, then completed a pass to Moss, who was wide open over the middle. Moss ran 60 yards after the catch to complete the 69-yard pass play that gave Utah a first down at the Cal 6-yard line. Moss scored the touchdown on a 4-yard run to make it 7-0 with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
Utah made it 14-0 early in the second quarter on a perfectly thrown 40-yard touchdown pass from Huntley to Bryan Thompson, who got behind Cal cornerback Cam Bynum.
The Utes extended their lead to 21-0 on a 13-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Jason Shelley’s 1-yard run with 4:50 remaining in the first half.
Utah scored again just before halftime on a 74-yard drive that ended with Jason Shelley’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Brant Kuithe to make it 28-0.
INJURIES: Cal quarterback Devon Modster missed the game with an unspecified injury. Bears wide receiver Kekoa Crawford missed his fourth straight game with an injury, and Bears center Michael Saffell missed his second consecutive game with an injury. Also sidelined Saturday were wide receivers Jeremiah Hawkins and Ricky Walker III. Chase Garbers was on the Cal sidelines, but was not in uniform.
UTAH 35, CAL 0
RECORDS: Cal (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12), Utah (7-1, 4-1)
PLAYER OF THE GAME (offense): Utah running back Zack Moss rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 89 yards. He did not play in the fourth quarter.
PLAYER OF THE GAME (defense): Cal inside linebacker Evan Weaver had 22 tackles, including 10 solo stops, and had one tackle for a loss. He leads the nation in tackles.
TURNING POINT: Facing a second-and-10 from the Utah 25-yard line in a scoreless game, Utes QB Tyler Huntley dropped the snap, then completed a 69-yard pass to Zack Moss that put the ball at the Cal 6. Utah scored a touchdown two plays later to complete a 99-yard drive that made it 7-0 in the first quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME: Utah had 351 yards of offense in the first half when it scored 28 points.
UGLY STAT OF THE GAME: Cal had 23 rushing yards and 83 total yards for the game.
UGLY STAT OF THE GAME II: Cal had no points, three first downs and 55 yards of offense in the first half.
WHAT IT MEANS: Cal was a heavy underdog, so the loss was not a surprise, but the margin of the defeat was unexpected. With four straight losses and just four games remaining, a winning season is definitely in jeopardy. Tough games against USC and Washington State as well as tossup games against improving Stanford and UCLA remain. It's still unclear when Chase Garbers will return.
CAL’S BOWL BAROMETER: Cal's bowl chances were reduced to about 30 percent. A bowl game seemed to be in the bag after the 4-0 start, but now the Bears must win two of their remaining four games to become bowl-eligible. If Garbers must miss more than one more game, the bowl chances are reduced further.
NEXT GAME: Cal has a bye next weekend, then faces Washington State on Saturday, Nov. 9, in Berkeley. Kickoff: To be determined by Monday. TV: To be determined by Monday. The Cougars (4-4, 1-4 Pac-12) lost to Oregon 37-35 on Saturday night when the Ducks kicked the game-winning field goal on the game's final play. WSU also has a bye next weekend.