In a season of firsts, the University of Utah’s miraculous championship run has come to an end.
The Utah football team fell short in their first trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Utes (9-4, 6-4 Pac-12) fell to the University of Washington (10-3, 8-2 Pac-12) with a score of 10-3. This game marks the lowest scoring championship game in Football Bowl Subdivision history.
The Utah defense came up strong on the opening drive of the game. The drive was highlighted by broken up pass by Mika Tafua on third down and Jaylon Johnson on the ensuing fourth down.
Utah’s offense started slow, going three-and-out on several of their first offensive possessions.
On the next UW drive, Jake Browning was intercepted by Javelin Guidry for the first of two acrobatic interceptions that would happen during the game.
The Huskies were the first team to score after the first quarter ended scorelessly. The points came off a 29-yard field goal by Washington’s Peyton Henry.
In the first half, there was a total of 6 punts on both sides of the ball. This year’s championship game went into halftime with the lowest score at the half of any Pac-12 Championship game.
After receiving the second half kickoff, the Utes put together a rather impressive drive which was capped off by Matt Gay’s 53-yard field goal that knuckleballed its way through the uprights. With this kick, Gay set the record for the longest kick in championship history.
The only touchdown of the game was scored on a bizarre play in which Jason Shelley’s pass to Siaosi Mariner bounced off his leg while Mariner was coming down with the pass. The ball was then caught by Byron Murphy who ran it back for the lone touchdown of the game.
The Utes were not going to give up without a fight — on their last drive of the game, the team produced an 11 play drive that ended with two problematic no-calls on the Husky defense. The drive was set up by a blocked UW field goal.
“I don’t know what I can say without getting fined, but I’m used to it,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham, referencing the no-calls in his post-game press conference.
Shelley finished the game 17/27 for 137 yards and 3 INT. Shelley’s high school teammate Jaylen Dixon led the team in receiving yards this game with his 7 receptions for 68 yards.
Standout wide receiver Britain Covey went down with a knee injury on the opening kickoff of the second half. His status for the bowl game is unknown as of post game.
The season is not over for the team though, as they will know their bowl destination this Sunday, Dec. 2. The possible destinations for the team include San Diego in the Holiday Bowl, San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl, Santa Clara for the Redbox bowl, El Paso for the Sun Bowl, Las Vegas for the Mitsubishi Motors Bowl and Phoenix for the Cheez-it Bowl.
“We’ve had to move on from a lot of stuff this season and we’ll continue to come back,” Whittingham said.