Saturday's contest undoubtably was more fun for the Utes (3-5, 1-4), who must win three of their final four games to be bowl-eligible this year.
The Utes used a strong running attack, a solid defense and some key plays by special teams to beat the Bears.
The definitive win gives the Utes a new outlook as they head into the final stretch of the season.
"This game sets a base of what we can really do when we put it altogether," defensive back Ryan Lacy said.
Cal, which has had an up-and-down season similar to Utah's, never mounted much of a threat once the Utes took the lead.
Utah had been outscored 62-28 in the first quarter of its previous seven games combined, but went up 14-3 in the opening quarter Saturday thanks to a 100-yard kickoff return by Reggie Dunn and a 17-yard fumble recovery by Reggie Topps.
Dunn also had a 100-yard return in the fourth quarter, becoming the first Ute to have two in a game and three in a career. He had his first 100-yard return against Iowa State in 2010.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham called Dunn's return the play that slammed the door on the Bears.
"It was good to get back on track and get a win," he said. "It has been frustrating the last three or four weeks, and it was a nice win tonight."
The biggest difference for the Utes from previous games was their ability to finish drives.
After punting on their first three possessions, Utah scored on four of their next five possessions to lead by as much as 42-6 late in the third quarter.
"This game gives us a lot of confidence," said Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, who was 16-of-24 for 156 yards.
The second quarter featured a Utah rushing attack unlike any Utah has displayed this year, as both John White and Kelvin York were utilized.
Whittingham said earlier in the week he felt the two could be a good 1-2 punch for the Utes after the way York ran a week ago against Oregon State.
His hunch proved correct.
White finished with 22 carries for 105 yards while York rushed 11 times for 51 yards and a touchdown before he left the game in the second half with an injury.
York left the field with his foot in a boot, and Whittingham said the extent of the injury won't be known until he undergoes more tests.
The backs did their most damage in the second quarter.
The Utes ran six of seven times during the drive that led to York's 1-yard touchdown run then rushed nine of 13 times during their final scoring drive of the half.
That drive took 6 minutes and 17 seconds to complete and put the momentum firmly on the Utes' side.
That the Utes could beat the Bears by dominating all phases of the game was a welcome change for a Utah team that was getting desperate for a league win.
Now the Utes, who host Washington State next, have at least kept alive their hopes of making the postseason for the 10th year in a row.
Arizona (5-3, 2-3) is the only team remaining on Utah's schedule with a winning record. The Wildcats upset No. 9 USC 39-36 Saturday.
"We came in knowing we had to win this game," Dunn said. "Hopefully, we can get back on track. We'll keep taking one game at a time."
Storylines Utes tame Bears
R In short • The Utah Utes beat Cal to end their four-game losing streak and keep their bowl hopes alive.
Key moment • After Ryan Lacy intercepted a Cal pass, the Utes used 13 plays to go 54 yards and score on a 5-yard touchdown run by Travis Wilson that put the Utes up 28-6 with 22 seconds remaining in the first half.