LAS VEGAS — Everything came up roses for the University of Utah on Friday as the Utes crushed Oregon 38-10 to win their first-ever Pac 12 Conference championship.
Along with the conference title comes a trip to the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, another first for a Utes team that the Ducks don't want to face anytime soon. In the last 13 days, Utah outscored Oregon 76-17 over two games.
Friday's game at Allegiant Stadium along the Las Vegas Strip was a lot like the first meeting this season between the two teams, with Utah dominating from start to finish.
The Utes jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their opening drive following a Tavion Thomas touchdown run, and then doubled the lead when Devin Lloyd, who was named the game's MVP, ran back an interception 34 yards for a pick six.
Following another interception off Ducks quarterback Anthony Brown right before the half, Jadon Redding hit a 50-yard field goal to give Utah a 23-0 halftime lead.
After the break, the beat down continued with a T.J. Pledger touchdown run and ensuing 2-point conversion handing the Utes a 31-3 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The win came after a difficult season in which the team dealt with the loss of two players in less than year.
Ty Jordan died last Christmas from a self-inflicted gun shot wound. Aaron Lowe, who also played with Jordan in high school, was then shot and killed at a house party in September.
“Our mantra after the tragedy was we’re not going to get over it, but we’ll get through it,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “I believe our guys really did that and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Jordan and Lowe's teammates used the memories as fuel for a season that ended with a title.
“We’ve got a lot of toughness in us and resiliency, said Lloyd. “But at the same time, I also believe that they were there guiding us throughout the whole season. They were able to help us create things that I don’t think we ever would have done without them.”
The conference title in football is the first for the school since it joined the Pac-12 in 2011. The Rose Bowl appearance will be Utah's first in a New Year's Day bowl since beating Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
"We've just been working away on it ever since we joined the league," Whittingham said. " This is the culmination of a lot of years of hard work and effort, not only by us, but everyone involved. It takes a lot of people to make things go."
Utah finished its regular season at 10-3 and will now face Ohio State in the Rose Bowl in Pasedena on Jan. 1.