SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes football teamwas thrilled to make it to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history last year. But that 48-45 loss to Ohio State left a bad taste in their mouths.
“It was cool to go to the Rose Bowl last year,” said defensive back R.J. Hubert. “But it was a letdown that we lost. Even though we gave a great effort, a loss in a loss. There are no consolation prizes for losing the Rose Bowl. I feel llike we made a lot of people proud, but it wasn’t good enough.”
This year when they take on Penn State January 2nd, winning is the only thing on their minds.
“Yeah, absolutely, that’s our main focus,” quarterback Cam Rising said. “This is a winning program, and that is what we always expect to do, and that’s what we’re working to do.”
Just having Rose Bowl experience, unlike Penn State who hasn’t been there since 2017, should help the Utes. They won’t be intimated by the moment.
“Of course, you’re always going to have confidence going to a venue that you’ve played in before,” Rising said. “We’re just looking to get this one done this time.”
“We’ve had big crowds this year,” Hubert said. “We’ve played in the Rose Bowl already this year. So, just realizing that it’s just another game, settle your nerves and play one down at a time.”
“It’s a great opportunity to experience it again,” said running back Ja’Quinden Jackson. “Especially for the young guys who haven’t been there, so it’s a blessing.”
This year, Rising has different and possibly more explosive weapons to work with offense. Against USC, Jackson, Money Parks and Thomas Yassmin all scored touchdowns from more than 50 yards.
“It’s always fun,” Rising said. “When you have playmakers that start to come out and show they have that swag that they can make those big plays like that. It’s always fun and makes my job that much easier.”
Fresh off his MVP performance in the Pac-12 Championship Game when he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns, Rising is feeling good, even after one of the vicious hits of the year.
“It was a good hit, but I just took it like a champ I guess,” Rising said.
“That’s who Cam is,” Jackson said. “He’s tough and he’s a warrior. That’s one of the best things I like about him is he’s tough.”
And how did it look to him with his hair flying everywhere?
“It looked majestic,” Rising said with a laugh.”
Utah and Penn State will play in the Rose Bowl January 2nd at 3;00 p.m. MT.