Utes dismantle #3 Oregon to clinch Pac-12 South title, 38-7

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Thanks to one of the most impressive performances in school history, the Utes football team is headed back to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Britain Covey returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, giving Utah 14 points in 27 seconds and a 28-0 lead, and the No. 24 Utes ended No. 3 Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes with a 38-7 victory Saturday night.

Oregon is the highest ranked team Utah has ever beaten, and head coach Kyle Whittingham moves past Ike Armstrong as the winningest head coach in Utah history.

“Really proud of our guys obviously,” Whittingham said. “From start to finish, excellent execution, physicality. They just weren’t going to be denied tonight.”

Tavion Thomas ran for 94 yards and three touchdowns to help the Utes (8-3, 7-1 Pac-12) wrap up a share of the Pac-12 South title and a spot in the conference championship game. Utah has won four in a row.

Thomas has run for a Utah-record 17 touchdowns this season. The previous mark was 15, shared by Zack Moss and John White IV.

“I just try to go into the game and play for my brothers,” Thomas said. “A big special part was my mom was here, so I feel like she played a big role in this too for me.”

Cam Rising threw for 178 yards. His top target, Brant Kuithe, piled up 118 yards on five catches for just the second 100-yard game of his career. Covey had 191 all-purpose yards.

“It’s pretty old school, but if you’ve got a team that buys into it, it works,” Covey said. “It’s that we run the ball. Even if you know we’re going to run the ball, we’re going to run the ball until you come in to stop us. Then we’re going to be a great play action pass team.”

Anthony Brown threw for 231 yards and a touchdown for Oregon (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12, No. 3 CFP). Oregon rushed for 63 yards and had 294 yards of offense.

On its only scoring drive of the first quarter, Utah ran the ball 11 times on 13 plays — culminating in a burst up the middle for 10 yards from Thomas.

Rising found a rhythm on Utah’s next scoring drive. He completed three straight passes to open the drive and capped it off by dancing across the goal line on a 1-yard run in the second quarter.

His biggest pass in the first half — a 49-yard catch and run by Kuithe — set up a 4-yard scoring run by Thomas that put Utah ahead 21-0 with 27 seconds left in the half.

The Utes forced another Oregon punt 16 seconds later, and Covey returned it for the TD to make it 28-0.

Oregon finally got on the board in the third quarter when Devon Williams reeled in a 36-yard catch. Utah ended any possibility of a comeback when Thomas sprinted 5 yards for his third touchdown. Jadon Redding tacked on a 26-yard field goal to put the Utes up 38-7 midway through the fourth quarter.

With 142 career wins, Whittingham is now atop the Utah football head coach victories list.

“Coach Whitt I think is the best coach in Utah football history,” said linebacker Devin Lloyd. “He deserves everything that comes his way. I really just can’t say enough about these guys.”

Coupled with Oregon State’s 24-10 win against Arizona State on Saturday, the Ducks now need to beat the Beavers in their rivalry game next week to setup a rematch with Utah in the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas on Dec. 3.

Both Oregon State and Washington State can also reach the Pac-12 title game. The Beavers would advance to the title game with a win against Oregon and a WSU loss to Washington.

The Utes will wrap up the regular season next Friday at home against Colorado before moving on to the Pac-12 Championship Game in Las Vegas December 3rd.

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