Utah Defense Leads Program to First Ever Pac-12 Football Championship


Jack Gambassi

University of Utah Linebacker, Devin Lloyd (#0) intercepts Oregon Quarterback Anthony Brown for a pick-six at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 where the two teams met for the Pac-12 Championship Game. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


For the first time in school history, the University of Utah has fashioned a seat upon the throne of the Conference of Champions as they annihilated the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship, 38-10. All it took was four minutes and three seconds for the Utes to claim the lead, and after that point, it was all gas and no breaks as the Utah defense dictated the tempo in dominating fashion to lead the program to its first ever Pac-12 football title.

“We had the same mentality and mindset, focus, and look in [our] eye that [we] had two weeks ago. And I think in either of those games it wouldn’t have mattered who we would’ve played. Those guys were absolutely locked in and on a mission,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Immediately following an initial scoring drive by the Utah offense, Pac-12 Championship MVP Devin Lloyd arguably recorded the play of the game on a pick-six to give the Utes an early 14-0 lead. Before taking the ball back 34 yards to the house, Lloyd patiently waited for Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown to notice the receiver, baited him into making the pass, stepped into the passing lane to pick it off, and scored six points. 

“He was feeling a little bit of pressure and so he just tried to squeeze it in there, but I’m feeling the route in front of me the whole time and I just jumped it. It was an incredible feeling to help my team,” Lloyd said.

Throughout the rest of the contest, Lloyd was simply the best player on the field and recorded seven total tackles, five of which were solo. In addition to his tremendous pick-six, Lloyd was all over the field and continuously in the backfield which caused a plethora of issues for the Ducks.

Following the huge play by Lloyd and a few changes of possession, Utah quarterback Cameron Rising orchestrated a quick scoring drive with several impressive passes to his tight ends, one of which resulted in 29 yards to Dalton Kincaid as Rising perfectly threaded the small window, right into the hands of the tight end. Just a few plays later, Rising would again connect with Kincaid, this time in the end zone and Utah had a commanding 20-0 lead just before the half.

While many would’ve expected Oregon to just take a knee and regroup, the Ducks foolishly tried to force a quick drive and it was to Utah’s benefit. 

As Utah brought the pressure, Brown scrambled to the sideline and threw a pass which was easily picked off by Malone Mataele which set Utah up for a field goal and they took a 23-0 lead into the locker room.

Into the second half, the story remained the same, and Utah was destined to raise their first-ever Pac-12 Championship football trophy. Behind a few more dazzling plays by Rising who finished 15-24 for 170 yards passing, a touchdown and 61 yards on the ground, and the same defensive performance as the first half, Oregon had no chance.

“Cam Rising, what a story that kid has been this year,” Whittingham said. “He was the second-string quarterback the first three games and he just persevered, prepared like he was the starter, had a great attitude when he got his shot and made the most of it.”

University of Utah Quarterback, Cam Rising (#7), stiff-arms the Oregon Ducks’ Noah Sewell (#1) on his way down the field at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 where the two teams met for the Pac-12 Championship Game. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Jack Gambassi)

In addition to Rising’s stellar play, Utah’s defense held Oregon to their second-lowest amount of rushing yards on the season with 74 (Oregon’s lowest was also against Utah two weeks ago with 63), one of only two times that Oregon rushed for less than 100 yards on the year.

With their run game completely obsolete, the Ducks had nowhere to go and the clock simply ran out on them with zero chance of a comeback. 

Once the clock hit zero, the Utah sideline cleared out to celebrate the program’s first-ever Pac-12 championship, an absolute exclamation point on one of the most incredible seasons in the history of college football.

“If you would’ve told me that after three games that we’d be here right now I would’ve said you’re crazy. But these guys Buckled down and we go 9-1 the rest of the way after those first three. Couldn’t be more proud,” Whittingham explained.

With the victory, not only did the Utes emerge as Pac-12 Champions, but they also secured a spot in the Rose Bowl, another first for the program. As the Utes now await their opponent, which more than likely will be Ohio State, the game will take place on Jan. 1, 2022, with a scheduled kick-off of 3 p.m. MST. 


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