By: Colby Wonacott
Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local
Utah Utes were ranked number 14 in the preseason polls, and a clear underdog to even be considered to deserve a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
After wining, and winning by big margins Utah climbed up the ranks all the way to number 5, in front of other powerhouse schools like Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Oklahoma. Utah was the real deal and had everything on the line coming into this championship game against the Oregon Ducks
Utah had a lot of non-believers saying they are not better than Georgia or Oklahoma, c’mon their UTAH!!
Utah needed a win, to shut all those doubters up, and let their play on the field do all the talking.
But…I believe that is where it went wrong for Utah. Meaning, they were looking past this game and were looking towards the playoffs. What could explain the horrendous start in the 1st half giving up 20 points to Oregon and them scoring zero?
Utah’s best attribute is controlling the trenches like they have all year. Utah loved to play physical, on the offensive end and the defensive end, keeping their opponenst rushing yards per game to 56.3 per source ESPN. This made their run defense number 1 in the nation. Unfortunately for Utah, Oregon was listening to all the talk of how physical Utah is.
“Definitely put a little chip on our shoulders,” Verdell said. “We try not to focus on the outside noise too much. Hearing they’re the most physical team in the Pac-12 made us want to come out here and work even harder.”
CJ Verdell ran for an impressive 208 yards, scoring 3 TD with electrifying 70 yard TD. Most of those runs going right through the gut of Utah’s defense. Oregon’s O-line deserves a standing ovation for the wide holes they were creating for the running backs. Here is a quote from Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham about his teams’ trench play at the line of scrimmage.
“Disappointing thing is we lost in the one area we’ve been undefeated this year: line of scrimmage. We didn’t win the line of scrimmage for the first time all season, which is like I say, disappointing. Surprising really.”
Utah did score 15 points in the 3rd quarter cutting the lead to 23-15 to start the 4th quarter. With 7 minutes to go in the game is when CJ Verdell ran his 70 yard TD, putting a dagger right through the heart of Utah, and their playoff hopes. That pushed the score to 30-15, creating too much of a gap for Utah to make a comeback.
The final score of the game was Oregon 37 and Utah 15
Hats off to the Oregon Ducks and senior QB Justin Herbert getting this win and getting a Rose bowl berth. Herber did not play a great game, throwing for only 193 yards, but made zero turnovers said by USA Today. In 2016, the ducks finished their season 4-8 with a lot of outsiders bashing the program including their head coach Mario Cristobal. A quote from Coach Cristobal.
“It’s validation,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of Herbert and the rest of his senior class reaching the Rose Bowl. “It’s validation for all that they’ve done. I don’t know if anyone here has been through a 4-8 season. I’ve been through one of those. It’s about as horrible and miserable as it gets. It causes some people to break down, some people to quit, some people to leave. Then there’s a core that just puts their foot in the ground and says, ‘We’re going to change things.’ ”