SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah football program asked fans to wear black clothing for Saturday’s late game. In conjunction, the Utes wore sharp-looking black uniforms with red and white trim against California at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The night’s theme: Dark Mode.
Turns out, Utah also activated Beast Mode.
Continuing their stellar play since a slip-up at USC, the 12th-ranked Utes manhandled the Golden Bears 35-0 for their fourth victory in a row.
“Great team effort. In all three phases, we played exceptionally well. It’s our first shutout in the Pac-12. I guess it’s about time.” — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
This win featured excellent performances on both sides of the ball for Utah, which improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play. It was also the Utes’ first shutout victory in conference play since they joined the Power Five league in 2011.
“Great team effort. In all three phases, we played exceptionally well,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “It’s our first shutout in the Pac-12. I guess it’s about time.”
The win kept Utah in the thick of things in the Pac-12 South championship race. The Utes, who have a tough matchup at Washington next Saturday, are tied for the division lead with USC (5-3, 4-1), although the Trojans hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head 30-23 win last month.
Utah’s defense, which has only allowed 23 points in its past four games, was superb while holding Cal to only 83 yards of total offense. The Golden Bears only managed to rush for 23 yards — with an average gain of 1.1 yards per carry — and their passing attack, led mostly by freshman Spencer Brasch, was limited to nine receptions (on 22 attempts) and 60 yards.
A week after becoming the Utes’ all-time leading rusher, running back Zack Moss broke two more career records in the rout. He also led the team in receiving with 89 yards on three catches.
On the ground, the tough-to-tackle senior rushed for 115 yards for his record 15th 100-yard rushing game, breaking the mark of 14 previously held by Devontae Booker and John White. Moss also scored two touchdowns to give him a program-best 33 rushing touchdowns, catapulting him out of tie with Del Rodgers, who scored 31 rushing TDs between 1978-81.
Quarterbacks Tyler Huntley (11-of-17 passing with 214 yards and one touchdown) and Jason Shelley (one TD rushing, one TD passing) also played well for a Ute offense that completely dominated. Huntley, who’s been hampered a bit by an injury, was limited to action in the first half.
Utah’s offense was especially dominant before halftime, taking a 28-0 lead while racking up 351 yards. And that came against a Cal defense that entered this contest ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense.
The Utes finished with 473 yards of offense and zero turnovers against this usually stingy Golden Bear D, which had only allowed an average of 359.6 yards an outing before this lopsided loss.
Things have gone south for California since it opened the season with four straight wins, including an upset of then-12th-ranked Washington 20-19 in Seattle in the second week of the season. The Golden Bears have now lost four straight games to fall to 4-4 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play.
Utah’s offense covered a lot of ground for its four first-half touchdowns and commanding lead.
The first score — Moss’s record-breaking 4-yard plunge — capped the Utes’ first 99-yard-long drive since Oct. 12, 2013, against Stanford.
That possession featured two outstanding plays — a 69-yard reception and run by Moss after Huntley bobbled the snap and a 21-yard catch by Brant Kuithe in which he somehow held onto the ball despite being hammered from both directions.
Utah’s second scoring drive carved up 90 yards on the home turf, with a 40-yard bomb from Huntley to Bryan Thompson highlighting the upfield march.
The Utes got the ball back again after a Leki Fotu sack backed Cal up 13 yards, and Shelley scored on a 1-yard QB keeper to cap a 72-yard drive.
Shelley kept the next drive alive by zipping through the line of scrimmage for an 11-yard gain on fourth down. The sophomore then connected with Kuithe for a 1-yard TD strike and the 28-0 lead. The Utes had to move the ball 76 yards for that score.
Moss made a sweet move on the Utes’ only second-half touchdown, hitting the brakes and taking a quick step back to avoid a Cal tackler and then bursting 10 yards into the end zone in the third quarter.