Thoughts From the Gridiron: Utah vs. Oregon

Thoughts+From+the+Gridiron%3A+Utah+vs.+Oregon

By Ethan Pearce, Assistant Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah football team picked up a monumental victory on Saturday night, defeating the Oregon Ducks in a game containing multiple broken records to clinch the Pac-12 South all while upending the third-best team in the country.

Utah came into the night ranked No. 23, with Oregon at No. 3. Those numbers will certainly change substantially come the next poll, with the Utes ending the Ducks’ College Football Playoff hopes. It was a resounding victory where Utah was dominant from start to finish, and they cemented themselves as the best team in the Pac-12, for now.

The final score was 38-7. Utah led 28-0 at halftime following two scores in the final minute of the second quarter.

Tavion Thomas punched in a touchdown with about 30 seconds left, giving him the all-time program record for rushing touchdowns in a season. He finished with three scores on the night, putting him at 17 for the year.

Utah forced an Oregon punt with 11 seconds to go. Head coach Kyle Whittingham called a timeout to stop the clock rather than letting time run out, and the decision paid off. Britain Covey took the punt 78 yards to the house, putting Utah up 28-0 at the half. It was a huge momentum builder for Utah, and they didn’t relinquish control of the game the rest of the way.

It was a dominant, statement win over the No. 3 team in the country. Utah officially punched their ticket to the Pac-12 Championship game in the process, and their opponent is still unknown. It very well could be these same Ducks in just two weeks time in Las Vegas. Oregon State and Washington State are still in the mix.

Offense

Utah had so many standout players on offense. Thomas, Covey, Brant Kuithe, Cameron Rising, TJ Pledger, Dalton Kincaid and the entire offensive line were stellar. 

The tight end group specifically had a very nice outing, with multiple big catches and some nice blocking. 

Rising wasn’t asked to do too much tonight, but he played well. Utah’s offense hummed and he was able to keep the ball moving all night long. There were a few throws that maybe should have been picked off, but Rising got out of the game with no interceptions, and the Utes had no turnovers on the night as a whole.

Perhaps most importantly, Utah didn’t have to show too much of their playbook, should these two teams indeed meet again. It was a lot of rushing, and it was effective. 

Defense

The defense stood tall all night long, allowing just seven points. Cole Bishop, Devin Lloyd, Nephi Sewell and Clark Phillips III all had standout performances. 

Oregon’s offense looked limited and struggled to move the ball, as Utah put pressure on them all night long and they failed to rise to the challenge.

Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown was just 17-35 on the night. The Utes snuffed out any chance the Ducks had, and the game was basically over by halftime.

Special Teams

Obviously, Covey’s house call was the biggest play of the night. He credited the entire special teams unit for helping him be able to score.

“That unit is special, and it’s because it believes in what we can do,” said Covey.

Whittingham knew something was about to happen, and that’s why he called the timeout: to give Covey a chance to bring one home.

“I know I’d think twice about kicking to him,” Whittingham said.

Utah also blocked an Oregon field goal in the first half, and the Ducks missed another chance a few minutes later to keep them scoreless before halftime.

The Aftermath

The MUSS stormed the field after the victory, and the team celebrated after a hard-fought but well-earned win.

“Little hectic, but I loved it,” Rising said.

The Sewell brothers were both in action tonight, Noah playing for Oregon and Nephi for Utah.

“They’re both tremendous players,” Whittingham said. “Noah is outstanding, and Nephi may be the most underrated player in the conference. All he does is make play after play after play, and he doesn’t get a lot of notoriety or recognition, he just quietly goes about his business and makes very few mistakes.”

Whittingham set the school record for most victories by a head coach with 142 wins.

“I just feel blessed,” Whittingham said.

“It’s really cool to be a part of it because there’s so many players who have come and gone for that,” Covey said.

Looking ahead, Utah has Colorado at home next week. The Utes have already clinched the Pac-12 South, and their Rose Bowl hopes hinge on the championship game. Ultimately, next week’s matchup may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but Utah is still focused on trying to keep their momentum up with a win. The North Division is still up for grabs, but the Utes are thinking about what they can control.

“We’re not concerned with that. We’re gonna get ready for Colorado and send our seniors out the right way,” Whittingham said.

If it is Oregon again, Utah knows they will get their best effort.

“I think that we probably angered them,” Covey said.

He’s right. The Ducks were ranked third in the nation for a reason, and Utah just demolished them in front of a raucous home crowd. It may be an entirely different story in Las Vegas in two weeks, but it’s up to the Utes to make sure that the result then is the same as it was tonight.

Utah plays Colorado on Senior Day on Friday, Nov. 26 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. From there, it will be a trip to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Title on Dec. 3 with their bowl game hanging in the balance.

 

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