College football: Cal dominates Utah 34-10
Utah's continuous Pac-12 struggles, woeful offensive showing give Bears an easy win.
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San Francisco • It's official: The Utah Utes' offense is busted, and so too are their hopes of making a decent impression playing in a BCS league.

The Utes, who fell to Cal 34-10 here Saturday at AT&T Park, are 0-4 in conference play for the first time since 2002, when Utah limped to a 5-6 record in Ron McBride's last year as coach.

Finishing with a similar losing record and failing to be bowl eligible seemed inconceivable a few weeks ago when the Utes (3-4, 0-4) played USC close and drilled BYU for one of the most lopsided victories in the rivalry.

But now, nothing seems out of the realm of possibility for the Utes as ineffective as their offense is.

Utah, which mustered just one offensive touchdown a week ago in its 26-14 win at Pitt, was even more inept against the Bears (4-3, 1-2), whose three-game losing streak ended with Saturday's victory over the Utes.

The Utes finished with just 178 total offensive yards and had only 13 rushing yards on 26 carries. John White, who had 171 yards a week ago, had 15 carries for 39 yards.

"I am embarrassed," White said. "We worked too hard for this. This is killing me right now."

He at least held on to the ball. The same can't be said of quarterback Jon Hays, who threw three interceptions and coughed up the ball after one hit. Cal scored 17 points off the turnovers.

He was 11-of-23 for 148 yards and was sacked four times.

"Nothing, nothing happened," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of the Utes' offensive showing. "That was the problem. We couldn't run the football and probably didn't get 20 yards rushing, didn't protect the passer too well, threw it to the other team too often and turned it over four times, so nothing good happened for sure offensively. It was very anemic on offense."

Utah's effort was so bad that arguably its best play was a faked punt that turned into a 17-yard pass play between punter Sean Sellwood and 6-foot-3, 325-pound defensive tackle Star Lotulelei at the end of the third quarter.

Unfortunately, any momentum that trick play gave the Utes dissipated when Hays threw an interception two plays later.

Hays, now 1-2 as a starter, took much of the blame for the loss.

"I got hit a few times, but I have to make throws with people in my face," he said.

The turnovers were glaring mistakes, but Hays' poor decisions were only part of the problem for the Utes.

Cal won the battle in the trenches, and the Utes failed to bust loose for big plays. Utah was 4-of-12 on third-down conversions and reached the red zone just twice.

"We have to figure out a way to move the football and score some points — that is our No. 1 problem right now without a doubt," Whittingham said, before adding, "there is a plethora of issues."

The big question now is whether the Utes can fix all the deficits fast enough to be bowl eligible.

None of the teams remaining on the Utes' schedule has a winning league record, including Oregon State, which visits Saturday.

But for the struggling Utes, suddenly no game looks easy.

Playing in the Pac-12 isn't as glorious as the Utes once imagined. It's downright hard.

"There is heck of a lot better athletes and level of play, no doubt about that, that is what we expected," Whittingham said of the Pac-12. "We're not surprised, saying, 'Wow, we didn't expect this.' We expected to be a very challenging and very difficult conference, and it has proven to be exactly that."

lwodraska@sltrib.com