LAS VEGAS — — Devin Lloyd returned an interception for a touchdown, Cam Rising threw for another score and No. 14 Utah clinched the first Rose Bowl berth in school history with a 38-10 victory over No. 10 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night.
This game was a near carbon copy of the one in Salt Lake City two weeks ago when the Utes (10-3, No. 17 CFP) jumped out early and won 38-7.
While that game all but ended the playoff hopes for Oregon (10-3, No. 10), the rematch delivered coach Kyle Whittingham and the Utes the Rose Bowl prize they had been seeking since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
It capped an emotional last 12 months for the Utes program that has dealt with the deaths of two players.
Utah had lost its first two trips to the conference title game, including two years ago to Oregon, but left little doubt this time.
Rising engineered a TD drive on the opening possession after converting a sneak on fourth down near midfield. Tavon Thomas capped it with a 2-yard run.
Lloyd then returned an interception 34 yards for a score later in the first quarter and Utah put the game away by scoring twice in the final 27 seconds of the first half.
Rising hit Dalton Kincaid on an 11-yard pass with 27 seconds left. Then Malone Mataele intercepted an ill-advised pass from Anthony Brown to set up Jadon Redding‘s 50-yard field goal on the final play of the half to make it 23-0.
Thomas and T.J. Pledger added TD runs in the second half for the Utes to the delight of the huge contingent of Utah fans among the 56.511 in attendance for the first title game in Las Vegas.
Oregon: The Ducks had playoff aspirations after winning at Ohio State in September, but struggled to maintain that level of play. They were upset at Stanford on Oct. 2 before getting outscored 76-17 by Utah in two losses over the final three weeks and were denied a third straight conference title.
Utah: The Utes are playing as well as almost anybody in the country late late in the season with six straight wins. But back-to-back losses in September to BYU and San Diego State before Rising took over as starting quarterback mean the Pac-12 champion will miss the College Football Playoff for a fifth straight season.
MOMENT OF LOUDNESS
There was an emotional moment during a break in the second quarter when the Utah fans took part in their ”moment of loudness” to honor Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, who both died of gunshot wounds nine months apart.
A video tribute was played as fans lit up the stadium with cell phone flashlights and cheered. The Utes have held the “moment of loudness” instead of moments of silence to honor the former players.
Lowe’s mom, Donna Lowe-Sterns, also served as an honorary captain for the game.
Oregon: A bowl game to be determined.
Utah: The Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against a Big Ten team.