Cal finally found the secret to getting a win -- turn the locker room into a library.
Coach Jeff Tedford said the locker room was "much more quiet than I've seen (it) in a long time" before the game against Utah on Saturday. The Bears then went out and hammered the Utes 34-10 in front of 35,182 at AT&T Park.
Cal's first win in the new Pac-12 snapped a three-game losing streak and avoided Tedford's first four-game skid in his 10 years in Berkeley.
"I thought the guys came out very focused today," Tedford said. "I was wondering what (the quiet locker room) meant, but it meant good things."
It was especially good for Cal's defense, which forced the Utes into four turnovers and held them to 178 yards of offense. All but 58 came in the fourth quarter after the game was well out of reach and the Bears had emptied the bench.
Utah quarterback Jon Hays, making his third career start in place of injured starter Jordan Wynn, had three passes intercepted, one of which was returned 32 yards for a touchdown by nickel back Josh Hill. Hays also was sacked four times.
The Bears held Utah running back John White, who came in ranked third in the Pac-12 in rushing, to just 39 yards on 15 carries. All but 2 yards came in the final period.
"If we keep playing like that, there's not much anyone can do," Cal linebacker Dave Wilkerson said.
The formula Saturday was one the Bears (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) will have to use all season to record victories. Cal needs to ride its defense and do just enough on offense to enjoy success. That means quarterback Zach Maynard needs to play mistake-free, something he did against the Utes (3-4, 0-4) after committing four turnovers Oct. 13 in a 30-9 loss to USC.
Maynard didn't play great but was more than good enough, completing 19 of 29 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a score.
But most important, Maynard didn't throw any interceptions after getting picked off three times by the Trojans.
"I was very proud of the way he came out and performed and managed the game," Tedford said. "That was a big emphasis going into the game. He's very resilient. He came in today and didn't turn the football over. He was really smart with the ball and made good decisions."
Wide receiver Keenan Allen had eight catches for 78 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown reception in which he dragged Utah defensive back Eric Rowe the final 5 yards into the end zone. Allen also made a terrific one-handed catch in the third quarter, reaching back with his left hand to haul in a 16-yard completion that should be a fixture on any 2011 highlight film of Cal's season.
Maynard, Allen's half-brother, was asked where that catch ranks since they started playing together as children. "I really don't know because he makes plays like that all the time," Maynard said. "It's not unusual for me to see him make a catch like that."
The Bears took advantage of Hays, a transfer from Nebraska-Omaha, forced into a starting role three weeks ago when Wynn went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Hays was under siege all game by Cal's defensive front.
After Cal took a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by Isi Sofele, nose tackle Aaron Tipoti forced Hays into a fumble on Utah's next play from scrimmage, and safety D.J. Campbell made the recovery. That led to a 35-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio.
The Bears committed two personal-foul penalties near the end of the first half that helped the Utes move to the Cal 31-yard line. But linebacker Mychal Kendricks intercepted a Hays pass and returned it 32 yards. That led to Allen's touchdown with 34 seconds left in the half to give Cal a 20-0 lead.
Hill's Pick Six came on the first play of the fourth quarter and extended Cal's advantage to 34-0. True freshman Stefan McClure also added his first interception.
"We're a turnover-oriented defense," Cal defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "We preach that a lot and work on it a lot at practice. When we have opportunities, we take advantage."