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Wearing throwback jerseys on homecoming, the No. 5 Utes recalled an era when their success was marked by grit and relentlessness.
They threw it all the way back to, you know, two weeks ago before they beat Oregon by six touchdowns.
With ESPN's "College GameDay" on hand for what might have been the day's most hyped game, Utah's 30-24 victory over No. 23 Cal was by no means a letdown, as you might label near-escapes from No. 4 Michigan State and No. 2 TCU.
With five interceptions, they made Cal quarterback Jared Goff look as he never had before iffy and Devontae Booker gashed the Golden Bears for 222 yards and two touchdowns.
But it was no walk in the park, either.
"Hope you enjoyed that one," head coach Kyle Whittingham quipped afterward.
Whittingham had said that first-place votes aside, his team could only be judged after re-emerging from the "cave" of eight straight conference Saturday games.
This was the first. Next week, the Utes host Arizona State. After that, they'll visit USC.
"We feel like we're the No. 1 team," said cornerback Boobie Hobbs. "We just want to show the world that we can play with the Alabamas, the LSUs, because we've got the guys and we've got great talent and we put in a lot of work."
Saturday's victory kept them the South's only undefeated team, but there's no denying it was hard-won. In the waning minutes, Goff drove Cal into Utah territory with a chance to take the lead before Hobbs jumped a route to break up a fourth-down pass attempt.
Cal entered the game characterized by opportunism, but it was Utah that finished with six turnovers enough to endure three of their own.
Cornerback Dominique Hatfield had two interceptions, linebacker Gionni Paul forced one fumble and picked off another Goff pass, and safety Marcus Williams recovered Paul's fumble and recorded his fourth interception of the season.
"It's one of those games we'll look back on and wish we could have it over," said Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, who had led the Golden Bears to their first 5-0 start since 2007. "Just too many mistakes to win the football game."
Goff showed the ability you'd expect from a potential No. 1 overall draft pick the scout-wowing rope from the hashmark to the fall sideline, a dart to Stephen Anderson down the seam, an impossibly timed lob that speedster Trevor Davis caught in stride for a 35-yard touchdown as Cory Butler-Byrd looked on helplessly.
But he also made mistakes at an unprecedented rate.
Having previously only ever thrown more than two interceptions in a game once, during his true freshman debut in August 2013, Goff had four at the end of the first half.
"He just struggled a little bit tonight," Dykes said. "I think that we all wanted to win really badly, especially Jared, and sometimes when you want to win really badly, you might try to do a little too much."
For starters, Williams recorded his fourth interception in five games after a tip from normally sure-handed Cal receiver Kenny Lawler, ending a 46-yard drive. Later, Hatfield tipped and corralled a Goff pass with one hand while falling to the ground.
Nickelback Justin Thomas followed a Travis Wilson interception with a Goff interception on the ensuing play, at his own goal line, and after Hunter Dimick tipped a Goff throw, Paul stretched out to keep it off the newly laid artificial grass.
With his parents Masha and Leslie having flown in from Miami with his daughter Skylar for the occasion, Paul also stripped Daniel Lasco for a fumble that was recovered by Williams.
Meanwhile, Booker had his best game so far this season,
He withstood backfield contact and made Cal's Damariay Drew and Darius White whiff before diving into the northeast corner of the end zone for Utah's first score. Later he pulled the same trick when he was seemingly stopped for a loss at the Cal 4, reversing field after contact to give the Utes a 24-10 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the half. He spun out of tackles, he bulldozed defensive backs and he kept his feet when his momentum made that improbable.
Entering Saturday night as one of the nation's top-rated passers, per ESPN's QBR, Wilson had a pair of judgement lapses in the first half and finished 16-of-26 for 170 yards.
One short pass missed Britain Covey and was picked off by Trey Turner at the Utah 44. Another, thrown blindly under pressure, wound up in the hands of Cal's Devante Downs.
"I should've made some more accurate passes," Wilson said. "That's something I've got to correct."
But on his one true downfield attempt he found a streaking Cory Butler-Byrd a cornerback on your rosters for a 54-yard touchdown.
It was nothing like the romp in Eugene, but it was enough.
A junior college transfer, Butler-Byrd has an interception, a kickoff return for a touchdown and a touchdown reception in his first five FBS games.
After the new turf had presented a challenge earlier in the week, Andy Phillips drilled field goals from 44, 39 and 36 yards, while missing left from 48.