Utah Football Battles Ohio State In Historic Rose Bowl, But Falls 48-45
PASADENA, Calif. – It was a historic battle to end a historic season for the No. 11 University of Utah Football program as they played in the 108th Rose Bowl Game against the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes. Twelve touchdowns and 93 total points were scored between the two teams, but unfortunately the Utes would fall on a late field goal by Ohio State, falling 48-45.
The 93 points scored by the two teams was the third-most in Rose Bowl history while the Utes' 45 points ties for the most Utah has scored in a bowl game in program history.
The Utes were able to showcase a well-balanced offense with 237 yards through the air and 226 on the ground (463 yards of total offense), but Ohio State countered with 683 yards of total offense that included 573 passing yards and five passing touchdowns.
The Pac-12 Champions finished the 2021 with its eighth consecutive winning season with the Utes recording a winning season in 15 of Kyle Whittingham's 17 years as a head coach. Whittingham also became Utah's all-time wins leader the season, sitting at 144-70 overall with the Utes gaining their fifth 10+ win season under his direction.
After both teams were forced to punt on their opening drives, the Utes got on the scoreboard first, striking at the end of a five-play, 56-yard drive. Utah started with solid field position on its own 44-yard line, advancing to the Ohio State 19-yard mark where Cameron Rising linked up with Britain Covey for a 19-yard touchdown and the 7-0 lead with 9:29 to go in the first quarter.
After the Utes forced a quick three-and-out for the Buckeyes on the next drive, Utah's offense took the field and immediately started down field with Brant Kuithe dragging defenders on a 27-yard catch. The Utes eventually ended up on the Ohio State 12-yard line with Rising finding Micah Bernard in the corner of the end zone with Bernard getting one foot down for the touchdown and the 14-0 advantage.
Ohio State took over with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter, making it a one-possession game on the first play of the second quarter with 14:17 on the clock. The 10-play, 76-yard drive burned 4:05 off the clock, ending with a 25-yard touchdown pass for the Buckeyes to make it 14-7.
The Utes would have an answer on its next drive with Tavion Thomas "The Tank" scoring his 21st rushing touchdown of the season. Big gains from Devaughn Vele and Solomon Enis kept the drive moving down field with Kuithe even converting a third down on a seven-yard rush, allowing the Utes to finish things off with a six-yard rushing score from Thomas with 9:07 to go in the second to give Utah a 21-7 lead.
Ohio State would cut it to seven points with 8:32 remaining in the second quarter, scoring on a 50-yard passing play, but the back-and-forth continued as Video Game Covey entered the conversation once again. Covey returned the kickoff 97 yards, the longest kick return by the Utes since 2016, to the end zone to extend Utah's lead to 28-14.
The Buckeyes would strike again just seconds later on a 52-yard passing touchdown to make it 28-21 with the Utes regaining possession on the backend of a 26-yard kickoff return from Covey. Four plays later, ThiccBoi himself broke free for a 62-yard rushing touchdown, dipping through tackles to the end zone to put the Utes back up 35-21 for the last points of the first half.
The scoring stampede continued into the second half with Ohio State getting on the board first with an eight-yard passing touchdown, making it a seven-point game with 11:20 left in the third quarter. The Utes would go on to knock in a 24-yard field goal with 7:10 on the clock on the foot of Jadon Redding, putting Utah back up by 10 points.
It would be a 10-point swing by the Buckeyes to tie the game with 10:12 on the clock in the fourth, starting with a 31-yard field goal in the third quarter. Ohio State would score again to start the fourth quarter on a five-yard pass to end a 76-yard drive to make it 38-38.
Rising would leave the game with an injury on the first play of the Utes' next drive with freshman Bryson Barnes taking over at quarterback for the remainder of the game. After a three-and-out by the Utes, Ohio State would score right away on its next drive on a 30-yard passing touchdown, giving them the lead for the first time in the game with 4:22 remaining.
Barnes and the Utes would march back out on the field, and play-by-play and yard-by-yard the Utes found themselves on the Ohio State 40-yard line in a third-and-one situation. Barnes would keep it, breaking free for a 10-yard gain and a first down to keep the play alive.
With under two minutes to go in the game, Barnes would throw his first collegiate touchdown pass, syncing up with Dalton Kincaid on a 15-yarder to tie the Rose Bowl, 45-45.
During Ohio State's final drive, they were able to convert on first and second downs to keep the ball moving toward its end zone, eventually facing a second-and-one on the Utah two-yard line. Ohio State opted for the field goal, knocking in the 19-yard field goal to score the game winning three points.
The general of the offense, Rising, wrapped up the game with 214 passing yards (17-of-22) with two touchdowns while Barnes finished 2-for-2 for 23 yards and a touchdown. Rising also added a team and career-high 92 rushing yards and a touchdown while Thomas had 18 carries for 67 yards and one score on the ground.
Kuithe led Utah in receiving yards and receptions, catching six passes for 77 yards. Covey had 252 all-purpose yards which included a career-high 208 kickoff return yards and a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Bernard, who also scored one of Utah's two receiving touchdowns, led the team in tackles with 10 as Utah's starting cornerback. Nephi Sewell and Cole Bishop finished with eight stops each while Clark Phillips III record five tackles and his second interception of the year.
The Utes will open the 2022 season in The Swamp on Saturday, Sept. 3 when they take on the Florida Gators in Gainesville. The Utes will host Southern Utah for their home opener on Saturday, Sept. 10 which will mark the first of six home games in 2022.