Boulder, Colo. • The most interesting thing about the University of Utah’s 63-21 win over Colorado on Saturday afternoon did not take place at Folsom Field, but rather 1,200 miles away at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.
As the Utes were busy putting the finishing touches on the program’s seventh nine-win campaign in the last eight non-COVID seasons, Oregon State was busy helping them in the form of a wild, 38-34 come-from-behind win over Oregon.
With Utah’s win, plus wins from the Beavers, UCLA over Cal on Friday, and Washington over Washington State in the Apple Cup late Saturday night, the Utes are through to their fourth Pac-12 championship game in five seasons where they will play USC on Friday night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. It will be a rematch of the Utes’ 43-42 win over the Trojans on Oct. 15 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where Cam Rising scored on a fourth-and-goal run from the 1, then ran in the two-point conversion to cap the scoring with 48 seconds left.
“Obviously, with what’s transpired, we’re in the hunt, we’ll see what happens tonight,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said, roughly two hours before Washington-Washington State kicked off. “Three things have happened, four had to happen. We’ve got one to go tonight, and we’ll be rooting hard for the Huskies and see where it takes us.
“If the Huskies win, we’ll gear up for the game next weekend. If not, we’ll figure out what’s next.”
Whittingham said he was not made aware of the situation in Corvallis until late in the fourth quarter. Rising indicated he was aware of what was happening, specifically late in the fourth quarter when the Utah fan contingent in Boulder went berserk when the Oregon-Oregon State final score was showed on the video board.
Before the outside forces in Oregon broke Utah’s way, the 14th-ranked Utes (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12) were completely dominant against an overmatched Buffaloes team, running for 383 yards and five touchdowns on 43 attempts. Cam Rising complemented that, finishing 17-for-19 for 234 yards and three touchdown passes. The fifth-year junior sat the entire second half after the Utes built a 42-0 halftime lead.
Already up two touchdowns and driving early in the second quarter, Ja’Quinden Jackson, the quarterback-turned-running back, took a snap on second-and-goal from the 2-yard line out of the Wildcat before plowing up the middle for his second score and a 21-0 lead.
Jackson carried 10 times for a career-high 117 yards and three touchdowns, including a 66-yard scamper up the middle, untouched, to put Utah in front, 49-7, with 10:59 to play in the third quarter. Saturday marked the first 100-yard rushing game of Jackson’s career.
“You’re never satisfied, I feel like I could have played better in some areas,” Jackson said. “I thought it was an OK game for me.”
Rising’s third and final touchdown pass to Dalton Kincaid was marred by the All-Pac-12 tight end coming down hard in the back of the end zone. He stayed down, eventually sat up and got up gingerly, Kincaid was able to walk to the locker room under his own power surrounded by trainers, while replays indicated a potential back injury. His day was done at that point after five catches for 102 yards and the touchdown.
Whittingham said “hopefully” Kincaid will be all right, offering that the initial diagnosis did not reveal anything that appeared to be too serious. The injury, per Whittingham, is not related to the shoulder injury Kincaid suffered at Washington State on Oct. 27, which cost him the Arizona game on Nov. 5 and caused him to be used in a limited capacity vs. Stanford on Nov. 12.