No. 5 Utah Football Lose Heartbreaker in Championship


University of Utah senior quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) walks into the locker room after a loss to the University of Oregon Ducks in the 2019 Pac-12 Championship football game at Levi’s Stadium Dec. 6. (Justin Prather | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sammy Mora, Sports Editor

For the second year in a row, the No. 5 University of Utah (11-2, 8-2 Pac-12) fell in the conference championship game. This year, the Utes fell at the hands of No. 13 Oregon (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) 37-15. 

Nothing went right for the Utes during the game. The usually potent Utah offense was limited, and they only had a total of 309 yards of total offense. The Utes also lost both Julian Blackmon and R.J. Hubert to injuries that we will know the severity of on Monday. 

Things started to go south on Utah’s first drive when they were stopped on both third and fourth and short. 

“The first drive, fourth and short, I don’t think that was detrimental to our offense. We just never really got rolling and we played behind the sticks a few time,” said Zack Moss. “They have some good pass-rushers, so they made it tough on Tyler [Huntley] to do some things in the pocket. That first drive I don’t think really did anything.” 

Head Coach Kyle Whittingham said he was going to challenge the mark on the third and short because from his vantage point, it looked as if Derrick Vickers had gotten the first down. 

That was not the only time that the Pac-12 officials left Whittingham and the team confused. On a play later in the game, the official told Whittingham they were looking into an incomplete pass as well as a targeting call.

“They told me they were looking at it. They came over, said, ‘Incomplete pass.’ I said, ‘Yeah, no kidding, incomplete pass. What about the targeting?’ They said, ‘Nothing there, nothing there.’ Yeah, that was my explanation,” he said. Later on in the game, there was also an additional questionable non-targeting call.

The Utah defense also had a rough night as they competed against the Ducks. The stout Utah defense allowed the most rushing yards they had all season, including nine rush plays of more than 10 yards.  When it was all said and done, the Ducks had 239 rushing yards, with CJ Verdell accounting for 208 of those yards. 

“That’s something we’ve been doing well all year. I guess tonight we just didn’t do it well,” said Terrell Burgess. “I mean, there were some gaps that were there. We didn’t make tackles, we didn’t hold them to what we thought we should have.”

Burgess led the team with 12 tackles, and Francis Bernard was close behind with 10 tackles. 

Both Moss and Samson Nacua scored for the Utes. Moss’s touchdown came off a 24-yard pass from Tyler Huntley while Nacua’s was a spectacular catch in the endzone from 25 yards out. Nacua also was the one to score on the ensuing 2-point conversion. 

The night was not kind to Huntley, who had one of his shakiest performances of the season. By the time the final whistle blew, he was 17-29 for 193 yards. While he did have two touchdowns, he also had two interceptions. 

Huntley had seven receivers who had double-digit receiving yards, but Moss led the group with 57. 

According to Whittingham, this was a game that the Utes lost in the trenches. Even though this was a tough loss for the Utes, there is still one more game that these seniors will play together and fans can enjoy. 

“Like Coach said, we just lost the battle in the trenches where we have been good at all year,” Moss said. “We felt confident coming in that we were going to do that again … Things didn’t shape out that way. But this one definitely hurts. But we got another game, so [let’s] shift our focus there.”

The Utes will learn their postseason destination on Sunday, Dec. 8. 


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