Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham—filled with emotion—choked up with ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the Utes’ 38–10 dominant win over Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the Utes’ first ever Pac-12 championship.
With the win, Utah (10–3, 9–1 in Pac-12) is headed to Pasadena, California for the 2022 Rose Bowl, the first in the program’s history. Before the roses emerged, Whittingham needed a moment.
When asked about the Utes emotional season and the team’s upcoming Rose Bowl appearance, the longtime head coach said it was tough to describe.
“Proud of these guys… we have great leadership on this team, we went through, the adversity,” Whittingham told ESPN. “It’s [Rose Bowl] surreal. So proud of our guys. They deserve this experience.”
Utah faced unheralded adversity over the last year. Ty Jordan, the 2020 Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and All-Pac-12 second team running back, was shot and killed on Dec. 26, 2020, in Denton, Texas. Then, Utes defensive back Aaron Lowe was shot early in the morning of Sept. 26 at a house party and died on the scene.
With two crushing tragedies in less than a year, Utah linebacker and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Devin Lloyd—who finished with seven tackles and one interception—honored the two immediately after he was named MVP of the game.
“This is for Ty [Jordan] and Aaron [Lowe],” Lloyd said. “Ty, Aaron, we love y’all, this is for ya’ll. The adversity we faced, everyone bought in throughout the whole season, we came out on top.”
The Utes’ win was the second blowout over Oregon in the 2021 season. Less than two weeks ago, Utah defeated Oregon 38–7 to end the Ducks’ College Football Playoff hopes while also ending any chance that the Pac-12 champion would claim a bid as a top-four team in the playoff.
Utah dominated Oregon from start to finish on Friday, recording 361 yards of total offense and holding the Ducks to 10 points that included a garbage time touchdown.
Utes quarterback Cameron Rising finished the game with 170 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Rising, a Ventura, Calif. native, grew up wanting to play in the Rose Bowl.
Now, the sophomore has his chance.
“It is an unreal feeling, I can’t wait to get there,” Rising told Rowe after the game.
Meanwhile, Utah running back Tavion Thomas rushed for 63 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. He now sits at 20 touchdowns for the season, a Utah single season record for rushing touchdowns.
Utah led Oregon 23–0 at half, tying the largest halftime lead in Pac-12 Championship game history according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Oregon (10–3, 7–2) entered Friday’s game as the first team to make a third consecutive trip to the Pac-12 title game and came in 4–0 all-time in the title game.
But their reign atop the conference was crushed in dominant fashion on Friday, as the Utes got over the hump for the first time in program history.