Aaron Lowe’s mother gives Utah football team her blessing to play this week against USC

The Utes will be at the Coliseum on Saturday night — 13 days after Lowe was shot and killed

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham as the University of Utah hosts Washington State, NCAA football in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

In the hours after Aaron Lowe was shot and killed on Sept. 26, the University of Utah football team carefully considered its future.

There were two full-team meetings and a 15-player leadership council meeting with head coach Kyle Whittingham in a span of about 20 hours. By the time those three meetings were over, the Utes had decided to keep playing.

If there were any holdouts, anyone still unsure that carrying on was the right thing to do, Lowe’s mother assured everyone that it was OK.

In what Whittingham called a “very emotional meeting”, Donna Lowe-Stern spoke with her son’s teammates last month, giving them her blessing to continue with their season in the wake of Lowe’s death.

“That was the message, in no uncertain terms, that she delivered,” Whittingham said. “That was very good for our players to hear her wishes, and I firmly believe that is what Aaron would want, for us to carry on, continue, and be at our best.”

Lowe-Stern arrived in Salt Lake City later in the day on Sept. 26, hours after her son was shot and killed at a Sugar House party. She met with Whittingham on Sept. 29 at her hotel and the Utah coach asked Lowe-Stern if she would like to speak to the team later in the day at a team meeting. She thought about it briefly, then agreed to do it.

Utah conducted that team meeting inside the Eccles Football Center, and after everything that needed to be done football-wise was done, a special guest was introduced. Lowe-Stern came in and spoke for a few minutes.

Lowe-Stern’s made it clear that it was OK to move forward because that is what her son would want, if not insist upon.

“Football is a great distraction. Having Aaron’s mom come talk to us and tell us to continue on because that’s what he would want was the last thing that we needed before we could really do it,” Utah wide receiver Britain Covey said. “I think that’s what helped the most, his mom telling us to go on and to dominate the rest of the season. That helped, because you feel like you’re going out there with a bigger purpose.”

With Lowe’s death dominating all talk surrounding Utah football for almost two weeks, football remains mostly a trivial topic — but there is still three-quarters of the regular season still to play for these Utes

Utah has not played well, or at least seemingly not well enough to be considered a legitimate threat to win the Pac-12 South. Still, there are only three Pac-12 teams without a conference loss, and Utah is one of them.

A 24-13 win over Washington State on Sept. 25 featured seven fumbles, three of them lost, but also a stern defensive effort, especially in the first half when the Utes yielded just six points on 44 defensive snaps on an unseasonably warm day at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) can win the Pac-12 South, but in fairness, in the face of tragedy, it will take something Herculean to get there. For starters, a critical interdivisional game Saturday night against USC (6 p.m., FOX) will take place at the LA Coliseum.

It is well documented that Utah is 0-8 at the Coliseum since 1923. The more relevant stat is the Utes are 0-5 there as a member of the Pac-12 dating back to 2011.

“I think this season has been such a weird season in all matters, in all senses of the word,” Covey said. “To look at what we’re doing right now and realize you’re 1-0 in Pac-12-play and there’s only three teams in the conference without a loss? Really? There is still something beautiful and awesome that can come out of this season, and a win would really spark that. We’ve been waiting for this team to spark, and it would be great to have that spark down in LA.”