The Utah Utes flat out know how to win bowl games, whether they're busting the BCS or playing in a lower-tier game before Christmas.
True freshman Jordan Wynn threw for a career-high 338 yards and three touchdowns to rally No. 23 Utah (10-3) from an early deficit to a 37-27 victory over California (8-5) in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Wednesday night.
The Utes scored 27 straight points to win their ninth straight bowl game, the longest current streak in the country and tied for the second-longest ever. Florida State won 11 straight from 1985-96 and Southern California won nine in a row from 1923-45.
"It's the work ethic of our players," Coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We don't have any secret, magic way of practicing for bowl games. It's how our guys go about their business. It's their work ethic and focus. They understand a bowl game is a reward for a good season but also a chance to win another ballgame."
The Golden Bears, in a bowl game for the school-record seventh straight year, had their four-game postseason winning streak snapped.
Wynn improved to 3-0 at Qualcomm Stadium, including two section championships while the starter at suburban Oceanside High. He graduated last December and enrolled at Utah in January, allowing him to participate in spring ball.
Wynn completed 26 of 36 passes and improved to 3-2 as the Utes' starter.
Utah's defense came up big, too. The Utes sacked Cal's Kevin Riley five times and intercepted him twice, with linebacker Stevenson Sylvester returning a tipped pass 27 yards for a touchdown late in the game. Riley also lost a fumble. Safety Robert Johnson was everywhere, he delivered two big hits on Verran Tucker to cause incompletions.
Utah's defense shut down Cal and Utah scored on its last four possessions of the first half.
Wynn's 15-yard scoring pass to Moeai gave Utah the lead and his 21-yarder to Jereme Brooks made it 24-14 at halftime.
Riley fumbled early in the third quarter when he was sacked by Lamar Chapman, with Mike Wright recovering at the 14. That set up Phillips' 29-yard field goal for a 27-14 lead.
Cal finally scored again on a 1-yard run by Vereen with 39 seconds left in the third quarter to pull the Golden Bears to 27-21 before Phillips kicked a 25-yard field goal.
Riley was 20 of 36 for 214 yards and one touchdown.
Cal had only six first downs in the first half.
Utah's David Reed set school records for catches (81) and receiving yards (1,188) in a season. Both records came on a 39-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
It was a dream ending for the Utes who have had a somewhat disappointing season. Wynn looks real good and most of the offense is coming back. Utah walks out on the season with big hopes for 2010.
With the win the Mountain West is 3-0 in bowl games and 2-0 against the Pac-10.