What a game. What a season. What a program. Despite the result, the Utes' first trip to the Rose Bowl was one for the ages and one that I'll never forget. Sitting in the Rose Bowl for the first time, in what was essentially a home game, the Utes threw haymaker after haymaker at Ohio State, but they just ran out of gas at the end of the game, falling 48-45.
Utah's offense was sharp for a huge chunk of the game, picking up 463 yards of offense and jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Cam Rising had 214 yards and two touchdowns, and Bryson Barnes threw for 23 yards and one touchdown when Rising was knocked out late in the game. Utah rushed for 226 yards, led by Rising's 92 yards. Brant Kuithe had 77 yards but was slowed in the second half with an ankle injury. Kincaid, Covey, and Bernard each pulled in receiving touchdowns. Utah did sputter a bit at times in the second half, but they could move the ball and put almost 50 on the board. Covey also ran back a legendary 97-yard kick-off return for a touchdown, which came in an insane flurry of touchdowns in the second quarter. With OSU and Utah exchanging swings, five touchdowns of 50+ yards were scored in just a couple of minutes. Rising had a 67-yard touchdown run on 4th down after breaking multiple OSU tackles.
It was CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba on the other side of the ball that Utah couldn't stop. Smith-Njigba had 347 yards receiving and Stroud 573 yards with six touchdowns. Utah's pieced together secondary struggled, with Micah Bernard playing both ways to try and help out the depleted back end of the defense. The defensive line had trouble getting pressure on Stroud, so it was just a task to bend and not break, but it was a massive ask. Clark Phillips had an interception in the endzone and forced a fumble that was recovered in the endzone by Cole Bishop, but the short-handed defense couldn't get that last stop.
Sure, there's a narrative out there about how OSU had a lot of guys missing, but I doubt they had a two-deep completely decimated in one position group that they had to have a running back play almost every defensive snap as well.
Regardless, it was a fantastic experience, and while the Utes didn't win, this young roster has announced their arrival onto the scene, and now everybody is eager to see what's next.