A Look Back at the 2022 Utah Football Season


Jack Gambassi

The University of Utah Utes take the field for their matchup against the USC Trojans for the Pac-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Isaac Dunaway, Sports Writer


With spring and summer football practices underway here at the University of Utah, what better time to take a look back at the 2022 Utes football season?

The season was another highly successful one for head coach Kyle Whittingham and the Utes. They returned most of the team that won the 2021 Pac-12 Championship, and despite a few heartbreaking losses, Utah got back to Las Vegas and repeated as Pac-12 champions. This earned the Utes a trip to their second straight Rose Bowl, where they were defeated by Penn State, 35-21. From great team accomplishments to incredible individual performances, this Utah team gave us a lot of fun moments to remember.

Clark Phillips III’s Hat Trick vs. Oregon State

The Utes hosted the Oregon State Beavers at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Oct. 1. The big story of this game was junior cornerback Clark Phillips III. Phillips III wasted no time making an impact. Thirty seconds into the game, he intercepted a Chance Nolan pass and set up the offense at the Beavers’ 25-yard line. A few plays later, quarterback Cameron Rising found Jaylen Dixon in the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead.

Oregon State responded quickly with a touchdown of their own. At the 7:30 mark of the first quarter, Phillips intercepted his second pass of the game. He took it 38 yards down the sideline for a pick six, giving the Utes a 14-7 lead.

Utah built up a 28-16 lead in the third quarter. The Beavers were threatening, getting it to the Utes’ 8-yard line. Oregon State backup QB Ben Gulbranson threw an interception in the end zone to RJ Hubert, who took it downfield 70+ yards to the 30. Dixon scored his second touchdown of the game moments later. Phillips III picked up his third interception in the fourth quarter for good measure. Phillips’ dominant performance anchored a 42-16 win over Oregon State.

Beating USC, Part One

Two weeks later, the Utes hosted undefeated USC. It was a special night at Rice-Eccles as the Utes wore their late teammates Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe on their helmets in a tribute game. It was also the annual blackout game.

Heisman-winner Caleb Williams made his mark early, leading the Trojans to two quick touchdown drives. He was finding open receivers seemingly at will. He was also making plays running the football whenever needed.

Utah stars Rising and Dalton Kincaid both put up their best performances of the season, keeping the Utes in the game. Rising threw for 415 yards on the night with two passing touchdowns. He was also Utah’s leading rusher, putting up 60 yards and three more touchdowns on the ground. 

The Trojans simply had no answer for Kincaid. He caught 16 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown, accounting for over half of Rising’s completions and passing yards. Kincaid came up with big plays time and time again. He made catch after catch to keep drives alive.

With time ticking down, the Utes faced a fourth and goal at the 1-yard line down 42-35. Rising took it himself on a designed QB run and scored with just 48 seconds to go. Head coach Kyle Whittingham opted to go for two and the lead rather than the extra point. After Rising couldn’t find a receiver, he scrambled up the middle and scored again to give the Utes the lead. He threw up two fingers on each hand to the crowd in celebration, a tribute to Jordan and Lowe.

Utah’s defense had their hands full all night with Williams and the USC offense, but came up big at the end. USC was not able to move into field goal range, and the Utes picked up an emotional 43-42 win. 

Emergence of Ja’Quinden Jackson

One of the bigger storylines from the 2022 season was freshman Ja’Quinden Jackson’s switch from quarterback to running back. Jackson was a highly touted quarterback recruit who transferred to the U from the Texas Longhorns. After struggling to find playing time behind Rising and there being some injuries at the running back position, Jackson decided to give running back a try.

Jackson spent most of the season being a rotational piece as he learned how to play the position. He had his moments, such as scoring his first touchdown as a running back in the Sept. 24 game against the Arizona State Sun Devils. However, Jackson really started to find himself late in the season. Despite losing a fumble against Arizona, Jackson rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown, including a then career long 32-yard run.

Three weeks later, Jackson had arguably his best performance of the year in the regular season finale at Colorado. In a 63-21 blowout win, Jackson ran for 117 yards and scored three times. He averaged an absurd 11.7 yards per carry. Jackson’s first touchdown was a 10-yard score. He found a crease up the middle and collided with a Colorado defender at the 5-yard line, carrying him into the end zone. This touchdown gave the Utes a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Jackson’s second touchdown came just minutes later. On a second and goal play at the 2-yard line, he lined up in the wildcat formation. He took the snap and plowed straight ahead into the end zone to extend Utah’s lead. Jackson finished off his hat trick in the third quarter, weaving his way through the Colorado defense and scoring a 66-yard touchdown. Jackson’s performance aided the Utes to a win that ended up punching a ticket to the Pac-12 Championship game that following week.

Jackson kept his momentum going in the Pac-12 Championship game against USC. He ran for 105 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Jackson delivered the knockout punch in this game with five and a half minutes left. Up by 10, Jackson ran for a 53-yard touchdown to seal the deal, dragging a USC defender for about 15 yards into the end zone with him. Utah won the Pac-12 Championship and clinched a spot in the Rose Bowl for a second straight year. 

In the Rose Bowl, Jackson was a bright spot yet again. He ran the ball 13 times for 81 yards. This included a highlight 19-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Jackson took the handoff from Rising and put an epic spin move on a Penn State defender. He broke three more tackles on his way to the end zone to tie the game.

Heading into 2023, Jackson will be part of a running back committee that includes junior Micah Bernard and sophomore Jaylon Glover. His late season emergence last year is very promising for next season and beyond as he continues to learn the position. 

Beating USC, Part Two

The crowning achievement of the 2022 Utah Utes has to be beating USC again to win their second consecutive Pac-12 Championship. It took a lot for the Utes to even get back to Las Vegas. Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Utah needed a win and three other games to bounce their way to get the second spot in the championship game. The Utes needed UCLA, Oregon State and Washington all to win their games.

The Utes took care of business in Boulder, beating Colorado 63-21 as previously mentioned. UCLA beat a lackluster California team, but the big obstacle was Oregon State beating Oregon. The Ducks led 31-10 in the third quarter, but Oregon State stormed back and outscored Oregon 28-3 the rest of the way, winning 38-34. After Washington defeated Washington State later that evening, the Utes clinched their spot in the Pac-12 Championship.

Utah took full advantage of this opportunity. USC started off hot and built a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. Utah fought back, aided by a leg injury to USC superstar quarterback Williams early in the game. The game flipped momentum when, after a fumble gave USC the ball in Utah territory, the Utes defense stopped USC on fourth down. After a Rising fourth down conversion, the offense took advantage with Jackson’s first touchdown of the game. With just seven seconds left in the half, Rising found Dixon for another touchdown to tie the game at halftime.

From this point, Utah never looked back. It was a blowout in the second half. USC’s offense could not get anything going with Williams hindered. Utah scored three touchdowns of 50 or more yards in the second half from Money Parks, Thomas Yassmin and Jackson. After the Trojans cut the Utah lead to three, Yassmin and Jackson’s touchdowns built the lead up to 16. Bernard scored another touchdown in the final minutes, closing out USC in a dominant 47-24 victory.

The future looks incredibly bright for Utah football. They’ve progressively built and improved since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Whittingham has taken the Utes from the Mountain West to back-to-back Pac-12 Championships. With the season just months away, the Utes are expected to have another successful season and it’s not hard to see why.


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