No. 17 Utah Rolls Past No. 10 Oregon 38-10 to Win 2021 Pac-12 Title

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 4, 2021

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, right, runs the ball under pressure from Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)
AP Photo/Chase Stevens

The No. 17 Utah Utes have won their first Pac-12 football title, defeating the No. 10 Oregon Ducks 38-10 in the conference championship game Friday at Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium.

Utah led 23-0 at halftime en route to the 28-point win. Linebacker Devin Lloyd's first-quarter pick-six turned out to be the play of the game, as his 34-yard return for a touchdown gave the Utes a 13-0 edge.

Utah Athletics @utahathletics

LOUD NOISES!!!!!!! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoUtes?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoUtes</a> <br><br>Watch more here: <a href="https://t.co/bT6h6LsPe6">https://t.co/bT6h6LsPe6</a> <a href="https://t.co/YZBi2coJYs">pic.twitter.com/YZBi2coJYs</a>

The trio of quarterback Cameron Rising, running back Tavion Thomas and tight end Dalton Kincaid led a sensational Utah offensive effort.

Thomas capped a game-opening drive with a two-yard touchdown to start the scoring.

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

Utah capped off a 61-yard drive with six 🙌 <a href="https://t.co/PeJkcRMfQI">pic.twitter.com/PeJkcRMfQI</a>

Rising later found Kincaid for an 11-yard touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first half for a 20-0 edge.

Utah Athletics @utahathletics

DALTON FOR SIX <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoUtes?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoUtes</a><br><br>Watch more here: <a href="https://t.co/bT6h6LsPe6">https://t.co/bT6h6LsPe6</a> <a href="https://t.co/Uz3q8gw9Hb">pic.twitter.com/Uz3q8gw9Hb</a>

Other Utah defenders got in on the act too. A Malone Mataele interception of Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown led to Utah kicker Jadon Redding knocking home a 50-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

Oregon never seriously threatened Utah's lead post-halftime.

The Ducks did start the half off with a field goal, but a 41-yard run by Rising led to a TJ Pledger four-yard plunge to all but seal the game.

Thomas later added a second touchdown to put Utah up 35 points. Oregon running back Travis Dye's two-yard run late in the fourth got the Ducks in the end zone for the first time all evening.

This game marks the second time Utah blew out Oregon in two weeks, as the Utes beat the Ducks 38-7 on Nov. 20. On Saturday, Utah ended up out-gaining Oregon 361-221.

Utah lost the 2018 Pac-12 championship game to Washington and the 2019 matchup to Oregon, but the third time was the charm for the Utes, who accounted for two of the Ducks' three losses this year.

Both teams are now 10-3.

Notable Performances

Utah QB Cameron Rising: 15-of-24, 170 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; 9 carries, 61 rushing yards

Utah RB Tavion Thomas: 18 carries, 63 rushing yards, 2 TD

Utah TE Dalton Kincaid: 4 catches, 61 receiving yards, 1 TD

Oregon QB Anthony Brown: 13-of-27, 147 passing yards, 2 INT

Oregon RB Travis Dye: 15 carries, 82 rushing yards, 1 TD; 4 catches, 27 receiving yards

Utah Paints a Masterpiece

Sure, the scoreboard will show that Oregon scored 10 points, and Utah did have a few turnovers, but the Utes nearly played a perfect game.

They overwhelmed Oregon on both sides of the ball, with the defense making plays and preventing the passing game from going anywhere and the offense doing pretty much whatever it wanted.

A few standout players got Utah this far, although this was a total team effort led by a great game plan from head coach Kyle Whittingham and his staff.

With his performance, Thomas now has 20 touchdowns and 1,041 rushing yards on the season. The 6'2", 221-pound bruiser is difficult to bring down, as the Ducks found out the hard way. He had 21 carries for 94 rushing yards and three touchdowns during the regular season against Oregon, giving him 157 yards and five scores in two games against the Ducks.

Jeremy Birmingham @Birm

Awesome to see Tavion Thomas — Dayton Dunbar HS — just running over dudes like he’s been doing.

Lloyd was a sensational, game-wrecking presence once again, as he finished with seven tackles (five solo) and the pick-six.

He also rose his NFL draft stock in the process, and he'll likely be making a lot of plays on Sundays shortly. Jordan Reid of the Draft Network provided his insight post-pick-six:

Jordan Reid @Jordan_Reid

Now you’re seeing why scouts are so excited about <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Utah?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Utah</a> LB Devin Lloyd. Transitioning from safety to LB, he’s gained over 30 pounds and made tremendous strides in many areas since arriving on campus.

Utah's excellent running and defense helped overcome some issues through the air, as Rising threw a pair of interceptions.

Neither ended up mattering, however, and Rising's running more than made up for it. He also established a good rapport with Kincaid, who likely had some NFL scouts taking notice:

Tom Hackett @TomCantHackett

Dalton Kincaid is making himself some coin this evening. Good for him. Cracking player. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Utes?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Utes</a>

Utah isn't going to the College Football Playoff, but the Utes can at least make a case to be one of the best four teams in the country at this moment. Gabe Ikard of Sirius XM Radio and Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy provided more insight:

Gabe Ikard @GabeIkard

Utah’s clearly not making the CFP but I’m not sure there are 4 teams playing better than them right now. This is why CFP expansion will be fun.

Jim Nagy @JimNagy_SB

If there were an expanded CFP, <a href="https://twitter.com/Utah_Football?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Utah_Football</a> is the team nobody would want to play. Kyle Whittingham consistently get the most out of his football teams, which is the true measure of any coach.

The CFP isn't in the team's future, but a standout performance in the Rose Bowl will cap an excellent season for a great Utes squad.


Oregon Lays an Egg

There isn't one, single positive that Oregon can take away from this game. Perhaps one can point to Travis Dye faring well on the ground yet again (15 carries, 82 rushing yards), but those specific stats are empty calories when considering how poorly the Ducks played.

The Ducks' coaching staff had plenty of time to check the tape on Utah from the 38-7 regular-season loss and figure out a better game plan.

Plus, it would figure that the entire team would be fired up to play Utah to get a measure of revenge on the Utes en route to the Rose Bowl.

That did not happen, and the ESPN broadcast team made its opinion known on the matter.

Adam Rittenberg @ESPNRittenberg

Kirk Herbstreit on <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Oregon?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Oregon</a>: "This is an embarrassment, on this big a stage." <br><br>Chris Fowler: "I agree. It's inexplicable."

Oregon has plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, especially on defense.

It features a potential No. 1 overall NFL draft selection in edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, a Jim Thorpe Award finalist in safety Verone McKinley III and a tackling and playmaking machine in linebacker Noah Sewell.

Meanwhile, the running game didn't miss a beat when Dye took over as the starter for the injured CJ Verdell. Credit to a stout offensive line and Dye for keeping that train moving.

The passing game has been the team's weakness this season, as evidenced on Friday, but Brown has also done more than enough on the ground to make up for it on most days.

Therefore, it's confusing to see a team that beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe come out and be completely uncompetitive against Utah twice.

Granted, the Utes are a very good football team, but it's stunning to see them outscore the Ducks 76-17 in two games.

Oregon ultimately has no one to blame but itself. They had too much talent to play like this, and now it's back to the drawing board to figure out what went wrong before the team closes their once-promising season in a bowl game.


What's Next?

Utah is headed to the Rose Bowl and will play the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday evening between Iowa and Michigan.

Oregon's bowl game is to be determined.