Utah is Rose Bowl bound for the first time in program history
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – It was a night to remember for the No. 17 University of Utah Football team on Friday as they won the Pac-12 Championship with a 38-10 victory over No. 10 Oregon in Allegiant Stadium. In what felt like a home game for the Utes with an incredible energy coming from the crowd, Utah claimed its first Pac-12 title and 27th conference title overall to improve to 10-3 overall.
It was Utah’s first conference title since it won the Mountain West in 2008, also marking the sixth 10-win season under the direction of Kyle Whittingham. It was Utah’s third trip to the title game after winning the Pac-12 South in 2018, 2019 and 2021 along with a share of the south crown in 2015.
With the Utes taking the stage to accept the trophy, another award was ready to be handed to one of Utah’s captains as Devin Lloyd was named the Pac-12 Championship MVP of the Game. The linebacker would add to his hardware as the Utes were handed the championship trophy, hoisting it in the air victoriously.
For the second time in 13 days, Utah’s defense was smothering in the first half against the Ducks, holding Oregon to just 65 yards of total offense, zero third down conversions and only three first downs through the first two quarters. While Oregon did get on the board with a third quarter field goal, and added a touchdown late in regulation, Utah continued to stifle the Ducks and held the team to 221 total yards in the game—the fewest all season for Oregon.
The Utes were able to be productive on offense thanks to a balanced attack that included 191 yards rushing and 170 yards through the air for 361 yards of total offense, averaging 5.6 yards per play. Utah had 21 first downs compared to Oregon’s 14, also converting on six of its 13 third down attempts.
Utah wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the first quarter, putting up seven points on its first possession with 10:47 on the clock after Britain Covey got the Utes started with a 39-yard kickoff return. After facing a fourth-and-one on the Utah 48-yard line, Cameron Rising pushed his way to a first down to extend the drive with Tavion Thomas eventually getting Utah in the end zone on a two-yard rush for a 7-0 lead.
It would be the defensive general himself, Lloyd, who would add to Utah’s lead with under five minutes to go in the first quarter, scoring on a pick-six. The junior linebacker read the Oregon offense perfectly, stepping in front of a Duck receiver to pick it off for a 34-yard return to the end zone to make it 14-0 with 4:16 on the clock.
Despite two turnovers by the Ute offense in the second quarter, Utah’s defense continued to stand strong, forcing the Ducks to punt with 4:04 to go in the half to put the ball in Rising’s hands at the Utah 26-yard line.
The Utes would convert on two third downs in the 74-yard drive, including a 29-yard catch by Dalton Kincaid on a third-and-14 to put them on the Oregon 11-yard line. Rising and Kincaid would link up once again to finish the drive as Rising threaded the needle to Kincaid in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown and a 20-0 lead with less than 30 seconds left in the quarter.
Utah would head into halftime with a 23-0 lead thanks to a late interception by Malone Mataele to give Utah the ball back with eight seconds remaining and keep the Ducks off the scoreboard in the first half. The defensive play would allow Jadon Redding to line-up for a 50-yard field goal, knocking it through the uprights for a career-long kick to send the Utes into halftime with the advantage.
Oregon started the third quarter by getting its first points of the game, scoring on a 42-yard field goal to cut Utah’s lead to 23-3 with 10:32 remaining on the clock. Utah’s defense continued to cause issues for the Ducks though, getting the Utes the ball back with 6:59 after Van Fillinger forced a fourth down after chasing down the Oregon quarterback for a sack.
Utah’s next scoring drive lasted just 26 seconds after Rising used his legs for a 41-yard rush to the Oregon four-yard line on a second-and-10, setting up the Utes to take a 28-point lead. It would be TJ Pledger’s turn to find the end zone on the next play, driving home the five-yard rushing score to give the Utes a 31-3 lead with 6:33 left in the third quarter.
After Oregon turned the ball over on downs thanks to an athletics pass breakup by Clark Phillips III on a fourth-and-four, the Utes got started on their own 38-yard line. The drive trickled into the fourth quarter with the Utes marching down field, converting on two key third downs with Thomas scoring his second touchdown of the game on a three-yard rush to give Utah a 38-3 lead with 10:21 to play in the game.
Oregon went 90 yards downfield for a touchdown on its ensuing drive, but it was too little, too late for the Ducks and Utah regained possession with 5:15 left. From there, it was time to chew the clock with the run game. And the Utes did exactly that en route to securing the Pac-12 crown and starting the celebration with a large sea of red among the 56,511 fans in attendance.
Rising led the Utes with 170 yards on 15-of-24 passing (2 INT), throwing for one touchdown while also producing 61 yards rushing on nine carries (6.8). Thomas was once again a force on the field for the Utes, rushing for two touchdowns along with his 63 yards (18 carries).
Through the air, Covey came away with 72 receiving yards to tie his season high while recording his third-straight 100+ all-purpose yard game (123 yards). Utah’s lone receiving touchdown would come from Kincaid, who notched four receptions for 61 yards (15.3 ypc) and an 11-yard scoring play.
Freshman Cole Bishop tied his career-high with a team-leading eight tackles (1.0 sack), adding a pass breakup as well. Finishing with seven tackles, Pac-12 Championship MVP Lloyd also had a pick-six in the game while Van Fillinger picked up a career-high seven stops as well.
Utah is the first FBS team since Texas (2005) to beat the same opponent by 25-plus points in both the regular season and conference championship during the same season. (via Stats Perform)
The Utes defeated Oregon (38-7; 31-point margin) in Salt Lake City on Nov. 20, and posted a 28-point buffer in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Las Vegas.
For the first time in program history, Utah is Rose Bowl-bound with its opponent to be determined. Kickoff for the 108th Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, Calif., is set for Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at 3 p.m. MT / 2 p.m. PT.