Coming into today's game the California Golden Bears were coming off a forgettable game against the USC Trojans and the Bears' opponent the Utah Utes were coming off one of their best games of the season against Pittsburgh.
The Utes held Ray Graham to 46 yards on 12 carries and Graham is one of the better running backs in the country as at time he was averaging 144 yards per gam. Besides holding the running game down against Pittsburgh, the Utes also held Tino Sunseri and Trey Anderson to a combined 50 yards passing in the game and in total Pittsburgh had just 120 yards of total offense.
With that kind of defense it showed the Bears why the Utes were ranked no.2 in numerous categories in the Pac-12 conference on the defensive side and what has been the issue for the Utes has been the offense.
Jon Hays is the starting quarterback for the team after Jordan Wynn was lost for the season against Washington due to a left shoulder injury that required surgery and even though Hays is a junior he had no prior experience and shows why the Utes even with the great defense have not been able to win a Pac-12 conference game yet including today's game that dropped them to 0-4.
For the Bears inexperience at the quarterback has been the issue and the reason why before today's game why the Bears were winless in Pac-12 conference play and nothing illustrated that point better than what happened with the Bears facing USC as Zach Maynard threw three interceptions.
Defensively the Bears have been excellent this year and that was also shown against USC as Robert Woods one of the most outstanding receivers in the nation was held to five catches and 36 yards. So, it appeared that this game would be close and would depend on which quarterback made the least amount of mistakes.
For the most part in the first quarter that looked like it was going to be the case as it was a battle of field position, until the final minutes of the quarter when the Bears started to drive and the rout was on.Jeff Tedford's gameplan for Maynard worked perfectly and he appeared much more comfortable than he had been all year long. Part of that was instead of keeping Maynard in the pocket, Tedford allowed him to move and make the throws on the run where he has looked much more comfortable. For the Utes their offensive line had no answer for the aggressive Bears defense which forced three interceptions including one returned for a touchdown by Josh Hill and the defense also forced a fumble which led to a field goal for the Bears.
Just before halftime it appeared the Utes were going to get some momentum as Reggie Dunn had a return of 32 yards and also was hit out of bounds resulting in an additional 15 yards onto the end of the return. Hays then found Griff McNabb for a solid gain and another personal foul penalty resulted in another 15 yards added and it appeared the Utes were going to score and build on that for the second half. Hays on the very next play was intercepted by Mychal Kendrics who returned the interception 32 yards and was just brought down by Hays otherwise he would have returned the interception for a touchdown.Maynard then found Marvin Jones for 32 yards and a screen pass to Keenan Allen for 12 yards resulted in a touchdown and brought the score to 20-0 and that was the score going into the half and was the final nail in the coffin for the Utes.
The Utes did manage to break the shutout in the four with a field goal and scored their only touchdown of the game with just over a minute remaining in the game. For the Bears their scoring was the aforementioned interception returned for a touchdown by Hill and a touchdown run by Maynard early in the third quarter.
With Maynard looking more comfortable and the stingy defense of the Bears this was the most complete game the Bears have played this season, which bodes well for the team as their record improves to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in Pac-12 conference play.
Next Saturday the Bears play the shorthanded UCLA Bruins and the next two games on the schedule for the Bears are Washington State and Oregon State and if Maynard continues to improve his play those are three winnable games for the Bears.