No. 14 Utah defeats No. 10 Oregon to clinch its first Rose Bowl berth
The past year marked by tragedy following the deaths of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe will end with the long-coveted Rose Bowl bid.
Devin Lloyd returned an interception for a touchdown, Cameron Rising threw for another score and No. 14 Utah clinched the first Rose Bowl berth in school history with a 38-10 victory over No. 10 Oregon on Friday night.
“Our mantra after the tragedy was we’re not going to get over it, but we’ll get through it,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “I believe our guys really did that and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Knowing new coach Lincoln Riley will be watching could add intrigue to a game between two losing teams otherwise devoid of buzz.
Jordan died last Christmas from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. Lowe, who also played with Jordan in high school, was then shot and killed at a house party in September.
Their teammates used the memories as fuel for a season that ended with a title.
“We’ve got a lot of toughness in us and resiliency, said Lloyd, who was named MVP of the game. “But at the same time, I also believe that they were there guiding us throughout the whole season. They were able to help us create things that I don’t think we ever would have done without them.”
This game was a near carbon copy of the one in Salt Lake City two weeks ago when the Utes (10-3, No. 17 CFP) jumped out early and won 38-7.
While that game all but ended the playoff hopes for Oregon (10-3, No. 10), the rematch delivered the Utes the Rose Bowl prize they had been seeking since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
Utah had lost its first two trips to the conference title game, including two years ago to Oregon, but left little doubt this time.
“We’ve just been working away on it ever since we joined the league,” Whittingham said. “This is the culmination of a lot of years of hard work and effort, not only by us, but everyone involved. It takes a lot of people to make this thing go.”
Rising engineered a touchdown drive on the opening possession after converting a sneak on fourth down near midfield. Tavon Thomas capped it with a two-yard run.
Lloyd then returned an interception 34 yards for a score later in the first quarter and Utah put the game away by scoring twice in the final 27 seconds of the first half.
Rising hit Dalton Kincaid on an 11-yard pass with 27 seconds left. Then Malone Mataele intercepted an ill-advised pass from Anthony Brown to set up Jadon Redding’s 50-yard field goal on the final play of the half to make it 23-0.
The Utes led the game two weeks ago 28-0 at the half.
“Honestly, it seemed kind of similar,” Ducks safety Verone McKinley III said. “It’s tough because we felt prepared. We felt we had a good game plan and then to let what happened happen again was a tough pill to swallow.”
Thomas and T.J. Pledger added TD runs in the second half for the Utes to the delight of the huge contingent of Utah fans among the 56,511 in attendance for the first title game in Las Vegas.
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