Utah holds off Cal in final moments to win 30-24 in Salt Lake City

Posted at 11:48 PM, Oct 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-11 20:07:41-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- There was an incredible amount of anticipation ahead of No. 5 Utah's game against No. 23 Cal in Salt Lake City Saturday night, and once game time rolled around things began in a wild first half that featured seven turnovers with the game culminating in a nail-biting final drive.

ESPN College GameDay was in town for the event, and eager fans began camping out days in advance. The prior week's bye created a lull between Saturday's game and Utah's thrilling 62-20 win over Oregon in week 4, so fans were extra hyped for the Top-25 match-up between Pac-12 teams at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes got things going on defense early, as Williams picked off Cal on their first drive. The interception gave Utah the ball, but they couldn't capitalize and ended up punting, setting up Cal on their own 7 yard line.

But Utah's defense came up big again a short time later, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Williams, giving him his second turnover. Still, after some penalties, Utah had to settle for a 43-yard field goal from Phillips to take the lead at 3-0.

Cal scored on the next drive, taking a 7-3 lead, but Utah answered back with a drive capped off by a Devontae Booker run for a touchdown. Utah would get another interception on the following drive, but the resulting effort for the Utes ultimately stalled out with a missed 48-yard field goal attempt.

The interceptions would continue, as Cal's Turner intercepted Travis Wilson with about 8 minutes left in the second quarter.  That drive for the Bears culminated in a 22-yard field goal, making it 10-10 with about 6 minutes left in the half.

The turnovers came thick after that, with Utah's next drive ending in an interception by Devante Downs, giving Cal the ball on the 29. However, on the very next play Justin Thomas picked off Jared Goff to give Utah possession once more.

Wilson completed a pass to Cory Butler-Byrd on the fourth play of the next drive, and Butler-Byrd took it 54 yards for a touchdown to give Utah a 17-10 lead.

Just two plays later, Gionni Paul picked off Goff yet again to give Utah's offense another go, setting up a touchdown on a three-play drive and making it 24-10 Utah with 1:47 left in the half.

That minute and a half proved to be about a half-minute more than Cal needed to march down the field and score, making it 24-17 with just 26 seconds left in the second quarter. Utah could not gain any traction in those last seconds, and the score would stand as the half ended.

Utah began the second half with the ball, and their first outing resulted in a field goal. Cal's response also resulted in a field goal attempt, but the kick from 40 yards out missed, making it 27-17 Utah.

Booker made a catch but fumbled the ball with 2:45 left in the third quarter, giving Cal dangerous field position inside Utah's 30 yard line. The Bears quickly capitalized, hammering in the touchdown on three rushing plays and narrowing the score to 27-24 in the declining minutes of the third quarter.

Utah's next drive ended with a field goal from Phillips, giving the Utes a 30-24 lead in the fourth quarter.

The next two drives resulted in punts for both teams, but Utah's defense roared back into the game as Dominique Hatfield picked off Goff at the 18 yard line with 7:24 left in the contest. Hatfield's snag was the Utes' sixth turnover of the game, and their fifth interception (the second of the night for Hatfield.)

The drive gained little traction however, and the resulting punt pinned Cal back at their own 5 yard line. Utah forced a fumble, but Cal recovered to keep the drive alive. That same drive faced a critical 3rd and 4 at midfield, and Cal converted on a play-action pass to keep marching toward the end zone. Another 3rd and short also resulted in a clutch conversion for the Bears.

Then, with 36 seconds left to play,  Cal faced 3rd and 5 from the Utah 21, and the Ute defense stepped up to force back-to-back incomplete passes and a turnover on downs.

With that defensive stand, Utah remains undefeated and improves to 5-0, 2-0 in conference play.