But by the fourth, Warfield sprung free and looked like the back who had averaged 177 yards in the first two games of the season. He scored his third touchdown of the game on a 14-yard run with 1:06 remaining as Utah rallied to beat Cal 31-24 Thursday night.
"That was the most open I saw it all game. I saw the end zone and ran as fast as I could and dove to get in there," said Warfield who had 94 yards on 30 carries. "It was tough running. They were stacked up to stop me."
Warfield has been Utah's main option through three games with running back Marty Johnson out with a foot injury. Teams have focused on Warfield but haven't been able to shut him down.
The Golden Bears came the closest, but in the end had no answer for the speedy back as he gained 54 yards in the final quarter. Warfield carried seven times for 46 yards on the final drive, ending it by breaking an option around the right side and diving across the goal line.
"I was hoping he'd pitch that to me," Warfield said of the option pitch, which came from quarterback Alex Smith just as he was getting hit.
Smith was 18-of-27 for 136 yards and ran for a touchdown in his first start for the Utes (2-1), who won in front of 46,768 red-clad fans -- the largest crowd to see a football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Smith was starting for Brett Elliott, who broke his wrist last week in a loss at Texas A&M and is out for a month.
"I couldn't ask for better timing -- national TV against a Pac-10 team. I've waited a long time for this first start," said Smith, who also had 12 carries for 71 yards.
The Utes, who led 21-7 at halftime, were forced to rally after allowing 17 straight points in the third quarter.
Aaron Rodgers replaced Reggie Robertson at quarterback after just two series for Cal (1-2) and led the Bears, going 15-for-25 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Adimchinobe Echemandu ran for 80 yards and a touchdown and Geoff McArthur had 130 yards on eight catches, including two touchdowns for the Bears, who wore down in the fourth quarter.
"It's tough to totally stop what Utah does on offense," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "They spread you out. We contained them well until the last drive."
Cal cut Utah's lead to 21-10 on Tyler Frederickson's 21-yard field goal, then got a huge break when Utah punter Matt Kovacevich's kick went just 19 yards and gave the Bears the ball at the Utah 28.
"We had a good talk at halftime and then came out and the kids made the adjustments," Tedford said. "We started rolling."
Echemandu scored on a 1-yard run to make it 21-16 with 3:18 left in the third. The Bears' 2-point conversion attempt failed, but Cal forced Utah into a three-and-out on the next series and once again Kovacevich couldn't get off a good kick. This one went just 24 yards and gave the Bears the ball at the Utah 34.
Rodgers hit McArthur with a 21-yard touchdown pass and Cal made the 2-point conversion for its first lead at 24-21. That was about all for the Bears.
"People are going to make plays on you," Utah defensive back Morgan Scalley said. "We just had to rally back."
Utah tied it on Borreson's 35-yard yard field goal, capping a 16-play, 62-yard drive that included two conversions on third-and-long and another on fourth down. After a Cal punt to the Utah 37, Warfield and Smith led the Utes on the final scoring drive.
The Utes ended Cal's last chance when Lewis Powell forced Rodgers to fumble and Utah recovered.
The crowd topped the previous high of 45,634 for the 1998 game against instate rival Brigham Young.
The Bears lost cornerback Tim Mixon in the third quarter because of a knee sprain.
Utah receiver Paris Warren, who was suspended for last week's game after getting arrested for shoplifting a box of condoms from a grocery store, had nine catches for 66 yards and carried twice for 33 yards.
"I let them down last week. I felt I owed them," Warren said.