The stage on which unbeaten Cal and undefeated Utah found themselves Saturday night was an unfamiliar one. ESPN’s College GameDay show pulled into Salt Lake City for the first time in years. The Golden Bears are looking to go 6-0 to start a season for the first time since 1950, the Utes looking to go 5-0 for the first time since 2010. Add in Pac-12 and College Football Playoff implications, and this is a huge game given any metric you can utilize.
Given what’s at stake, you’d expect some nerves. And nerves, and turnovers, are exactly what a national television audience received.
First and foremost, Utah was able to overcome their missteps and take a 24-17 lead into halftime. As has been intimated, though, turnovers were the overriding theme of the first two quarters.
All told, the two teams combined for seven turnovers. The decided “advantage” in that category, much to their chagrin, went to the Bears as they were responsible for five of them, which included four Jared Goff first-half interceptions.
The final two Goff picks were particularly penalizing for Cal as Utah turned them into a pair of touchdowns. A 54-yard touchdown pass from Travis Wilson, responsible for two interceptions himself, snapped a 10-10 tie late in the second quarter coming off the third pick, with the fourth pick on the ensuing possession leading to a Devontae Booker four-yard touchdown run with 1:47 remaining to push that lead out to 24-10.
Goff was able to shake off the most picks thrown by an FBS quarterback in a half this season as he directed the Bears on a late scoring drive to pull his team right back into the game. In 1:21 of game time, Goff orchestrated a seven-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown pass that shaved the deficit to 24-17.
Utah, incidentally, will get the ball first to start the second half.