#23 Utah Wins Pac-12 South Title With 38-7 Victory Over #3 Oregon
SALT LAKE CITY – Records fell and championships were won in front of 52,724 fans inside Rice-Eccles Stadium tonight as the No. 23 Utah Football team beat the No. 3 Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 South title for the third time in four years. The Utes (8-3, 7-1) defeated the Ducks 38-7 with Kyle Whittingham becoming the all-time wins leader as head coach at Utah (142-69).
Utah beat its second AP Top 25 team this season with its victory over Oregon, ranking as the highest-ranked victory at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It was the highest ranked win against a College Football Playoff-ranked opponent since the CFP was established in 2014 and ties as the highest overall AP-ranked victory in program history (No. 4 Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl).
Utah's 38 points is the most the Ducks have given up this season with the Utes holding them to just one touchdown, the first time for Oregon since 2018. Utah dominated from start to finish on both sides of the ball, producing 386 yards on offense while holding Oregon to 294.
Oregon entered the game ranked first in the conference in rushing defense and had only been allowing 121.2 per game, but the Utes stuck to the ground game tonight with 208 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns. On defense, the Utes were going against the No. 10-ranked rushing offense in the country, but held the Ducks to 63, the least amount by Oregon since they had 61 against Stanford in 2019.
The Utes held Oregon scoreless in the first half, holding them to just 39 yards of total offense in the first quarter and 1-of-6 on third down conversions through the first two quarters. Utah kept the Ducks quiet in the second half as well with Oregon producing negative rushing yardage in the third quarter and just 66 yards of total offense in the fourth.
After missing the last game, sophomore running back Tavion Thomas made an immediate impact for the Utes in the first quarter, putting Utah on the board with 4:40 on the clock. Utah would face a third-and-one on the Oregon 31-yard line, but Jaylen Dixon was able to extend the drive with a 16-yard rush as Thomas finished it off with a 10-yard rushing touchdown for the 7-0 lead.
Utah sent the Ducks into the second quarter scoreless after Cole Bishop blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt with under a minute to play in the first quarter. The Utes would go on to score three touchdowns in the second quarter, including one on special teams to take a 28-0 lead into halftime.
The Utes would strike with 5:08 on the clock for their first touchdown of the second quarter after back-to-back catches from Brant Kuithe for a combined 49 yards put Utah on the Oregon 27-yard line. Thomas and Rising would get the Utes to the Oregon one-yard line before Rising walked it in on a quarterback keeper for a 14-0 advantage.
Utah's special teams would once again put pressure on Oregon's kicker, forcing a 41-yard attempt wide right to give Utah the ball back with 2:02 to go in the second. Kuithe would catch his longest pass of the season (49 yards) for a first down to the Oregon 22-yard line with Thomas scoring on a four-yard rushing touchdown four plays later, breaking the school record for single-season rushing touchdowns with his 16th of the year.
The Utah defense would make quick work of the Ducks on their next drive, forcing a three-and-out with the Ducks having to punt once again – directly to Britain Covey with less than 11 seconds to go. The living video game himself caught the punt at the Utah 22-yard line, breaking through a flock of Ducks for a 78-yard touchdown return to give Utah its first half score of 28-0.
Oregon was able to get on the scoreboard with 10:02 in the third quarter on a 36-yard passing play, but the Utes would once again extend its lead to 28 with under five minutes to go in the quarter. Starting at the 9:53 mark, Utah would start down field with Kuithe, Thomas and TJ Pledger leading the Utes to the Oregon five-yard line as Thomas would find the end zone for the third time for a five-yard rushing score to give Utah a 35-7 lead.
Utah's special teams would get on the scoreboard for the second time in the game after the Utes' defense stopped the Ducks on a fourth-and-15. The Utes would get to the Oregon eight-yard line with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter with Jadon Redding hitting a 26-yard field goal, his eighth of the season, to make it 38-7.
Oregon would drive to within the Utah 10-yard line on its next drive with Bishop recording a key pass breakup on a third-and-seven to force a fourth down. On the next play, Utah's defensive front would apply quick pressure on the Ducks' quarterback with Oregon unable to convert on fourth down, turning it over to Utah on its own nine-yard line.
Utah would begin its final possession of the game with 3:56 to go in the game with Chris Curry getting a first down on a third-and-five, allowing Rising to kneel for the final two plays of the game for the win.
Rising led Utah's well-balanced attack tonight by going 10-of-18 passing for 178 yards through the air, also scoring one of Utah's four rushing touchdowns.
It would be Thomas who would score the other three, rushing 21 times for 94 yards (4.5 ypc) and his fifth multi-touchdown game of the season. Kuithe recorded his first 100-yard receiving game of the season against the Ducks, bringing in five receptions for 118 yards, averaging 23.6 yards per catch.
Covey led the Utes in all-purpose yards, racking up a season-high 191 yards. He notched 90 on punt returns, 59 on kickoff returns, 36 on receptions and six on his only rush of the game.
Defensively, Bishop would lead the Utes in tackles for the second straight game, getting seven stops (1.0 TFL), two pass breakups and a blocked field goal. Vonte Davis also recorded seven total tackles while Junior Tafuna would lead the defensive line with three tackles that included 1.5 sacks.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham became the all-time wins leader as a head coach with his 142nd career win with the Utes. He passed Ike Armstrong, who was 141-55-15 in 211 games from 1925-49.
Whittingham also became Utah's all-time wins leader in 211 games with the Utes' game against Oregon being his 211th as a head coach. Whittingham now has 227 wins at Utah after also spending 11 seasons as an assistant, the most victories by any coach in program history.
The Utes will close out the regular season in Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday, Nov. 26 when they host the Colorado Buffaloes for Senior Day. The game is set for a 2 p.m. MT kick on FOX.