Utah's offense put on a good show Thursday. A national television audience on ESPN and a record crowd of 46,768 at Rice-Eccles Stadium watched the Utes roll up 336 yards in a 31-24 victory over California.
As effective as it was, though, Utah coach Urban Meyer notes there's plenty of room for improvement.
"My biggest concern is that we're one-dimensional," Meyer said. "This is a heck of an offense to watch when it's balanced. And we're not balanced right now."
The Utes, who toppled the Bears with 200 yards rushing and 136 passing, once again relied on tailback Brandon Warfield. He scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner on 14-yard run with 1:06 remaining.
The senior wound up with 94 yards on 30 carries despite being the focal point of Cal's defensive scheme. Utah's offense, which has ridden Warfield to the tune of 99 rushes for 448 yards in three games, didn't alter things much in Alex Smith's debut as starting quarterback in place of the injured Brett Elliott.
It helped the sophomore remain comfortable. He completed 18 passes without an interception and was never sacked.
"It was exciting," Smith said. "I used the first possession to get the jitters out and after a couple of hits you get into it, relax and just play."
With help from the offensive line, his receivers (Paris Warren had a game-high nine catches) and Warfield, Smith directed the Utes 63 yards on 10 plays downfield for the winning score.
"The TD was a shovel play and I just got bumped to the outside and pitched it to Warfield," Smith said. "I knew he could get in."
It capped a comeback made necessary by a disastrous third quarter. Poor punts of 19 and 24 yards gave Cal great field position and led to a pair of touchdowns as Utah's 21-7halftime lead evaporated. The Bears, who preceded the boots with a sustained drive that resulted in a 21-yard field goal, held a 24-21 advantage until less than 10 minutes remained in the game.
Bryan Borreson evened the score with a 35-yard field goal to set up the dramatic finish. Utah's decisive drive followed a 54-yard field goal attempt by the Bears that was wide left.
"If you take away the third quarter we did a great job against Cal," Meyer said. "(The Bears are) a very good team."
SCORE: Utah 31, California 24
RECORDS: Utah 2-1, 0-0, California 1-3, 0-0
OFFENSE:Alex Smith has a successful debut as Utah's starting quarterback. He completes 18 passes and is never intercepted or sacked. The Utes are 5-of-6 in the red zone. On the negative side, they fumble twice—upping their season total to 12 (five lost). GRADE: B
DEFENSE: The Utes recover three fumbles and stop the Bears on nine third-down situations. Dave Revill finishes with a game-high 11 tackles, but Utah's secondary struggles defending Cal receiver Geoff McArthur. He makes eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. GRADE: B-plus
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Bryan Borreson makes four PATs and connects on a 35-yard field goal. Punter Matt Kovacevich wasn't as successful. Short boots of 19 and 24 yards led to Cal touchdowns. Utah's punt team forces a loss on downs, GRADE: C-plus
NEXT UP: Utah at Colorado State, Sept. 27, 4:30 p.m. (KJZZ, Ch. 14)