Southern Utah took a 3-0 on a 40-yard Colton Cook field goal late in the first period, then Cal tied the game on an 18-yard field goal early in the second period. The Bears then added rushing TDs by CJ Anderson and Isi Sofele and added a 27-yard Vincenzo D’Amato field goal with 25 seconds to play in the half for a 20-3 lead.
The Thunderbirds were able to grab some momentum at the end of the half, however, taking advantage of those final 25 seconds to score their first touchdown of the season. It came on a 37-yard pass from Brad Sorensen to Cameron Morgan, who tipped the ball in the air between three defenders, then brought it down with one hand before falling out of the back of the end zone. Cal challenged the call but it was upheld by video review.
Morgan’s score – his first collegiate touchdown – came on an untimed down after pass interference was called against Cal’s Steve Williams, who had pushed off against SUU receiver Fatu Moala in the end zone on the previous play.
SUU pulled within three points early in the third quarter after taking the opening kickoff of the half and putting together their first sustained drive of the game. A five-yard touchdown pass from Sorensen to Henna Brown capped the 12-play, 75-yard drive and brought SUU within 20-17.
SUU held Cal scoreless in the third period but the Bears scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, then on SUU’s subsequent possession Marc Anthony intercepted Sorensen at the Cal 39-yard line and took it back all the way for a touchdown and a 27-17 advantage. The Bears added a 47-yard field goal after Malik Brown lost a fumble at the SUU 36-yard line, then went up 44-17 after Allen muffed a punt but scooped it up and ran around the left side of SUU’s coverage 69 yards for another score.
Southern Utah scored on an eight-yard pass from Sorensen to Brian Wilson with 4:48 to go in the game to pull within 44-24 and the teams exchanged late scores, on a 77-yard Daniel Lasco run for Cal and a 7-yard TD pass from Sorensen to Moala.
“They may have worn us down mentally, they had more confidence late,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb said, “but the things that turned the game were an interception return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, and we turned the ball over deep in our own territory. Those three things led to 17 points in four or five minutes of the fourth quarter.”
SUU’s defensive effort in the first half was bolstered by James Cowser’s first collegiate interception, a fumble forced by Zak Browning that was recovered by Brennan Fjord and a handful of timely penalties against the Bears. In addition to the pass interference call, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on what would have been fourth and very short forced a Cal punt, and the Bears had a 56-yard touchdown pass wiped out by an illegal block call. On the next play Cowser got his interception when he stepped in front of a screen pass attempt.
Sorensen wound up completing 31-of-45 passes for 292 yards and four scores with the one interception. Moala had nine receptions for 85 yards while Wilson caught three passes for 15 yards and carried 17 times to a team- and career-high 74 yards. SUU finished with 371 total yards while Cal piled up 518, 289 on the ground and 229 through the air.
Redshirt freshman Miles Killebrew led the SUU defense with 11 tackles, while Cody Larsen had two tackles for loss, including a sack.