Utah received the ball first and they went to Zack Moss early, who broke off a couple big runs to get the Utes moving. A 20 yard completion from Tyler Huntley to Jaylen Dixon got Utah into Oregon territory. Oregon forced a fourth and one, and Brady Breeze made a huge stop for the Ducks to turn the Utes over on downs, making a statement right out of the gate.

Herbert used his legs on multiple occasions during Oregon’s first drive, gaining back to back first downs. Oregon was throwing some different looks at the Utes defense early, and everything was clicking. On third and two in the red zone, Herbert threw a play-action screen to Jaylon Redd who nearly found his way into the end zone. CJ Verdell finished them off a 3-yard TD run, and the Ducks took the early 7-0 lead.

On the second possession for Utah, the Ducks defense nearly had a costly targeting penalty by Brady Breeze, but the call was overturned. It seemed like the correct call given the circumstances, although on replay it could have gone either way. Oregon forced Utah to punt.

Herbert connected on a big pass play to Juwan Johnson to get the Ducks inside the Utah 5 yard line. However, Oregon was stopped on three plays (including a costly false start penalty), and had to settle for a FG. Oregon extended their lead to 10-0.

The Ducks defense was making plays all over the field in the first quarter. Special teams got into the mix when Kayvon Thibodeaux blocked the Utah punt and was almost able to pick it up and go the distance.

Oregon would not be able to capitalize off of the blocked punt, but on the next Utah possession, Brady Breeze made yet another big time defense play. Following an impressive run by Zack Moss, Breeze picked off Huntley in the end zone to get the ball back in Herbert’s hands.

The score remained 10-0 heading into the second quarter. Herbert was moving the ball well, and with just over 11 minutes left in the half, Johnny Johnson got loose for a 45-yard TD strike. Everything was working for the Ducks offense, as they increased their lead to 17-0.

When it seemed things couldn’t get any better in the first half for the Ducks, Oregon made their second fourth down stop of the game. At this point, Utah was searching for answers on both sides of the ball. Down 17-0, this was unfamiliar territory for a Utah team that was accustom to blowing the doors off of their opponents for most of the year.

As the half was coming to a close, Johnny Johnson made an incredible adjustment on the ball to pull in the reception and set up the Ducks with first and goal. Penalties continued to bite the Ducks as they immediately moved back on a false start penalty. Utah’s defense held, and Oregon settled for another FG to make it 20-0.

Oregon was able to prevent the Utah offense from cutting into the lead as the second half came to a close, securing a shutout through the first 30 minutes. Ducks went into the half holding a 20-0 lead.

The Ducks received the ball to start the second half, but were forced into a quick three-and-out (just what Utah needed). Utah made the most of the stop, as their offense drove down the field on 6 plays, punching it in with a 24-yard TD pass from Huntley to Moss. Utah cut into the lead and trailed 20-7, looking to change momentum in their favor.

On Oregon’s next possession, chaos almost broke out as Herbert saw a snap fly by his head and nearly roll into the end zone for a Safety or even worse, a Utah TD. The Ducks had to punt backed up at their own goal line.

The energy in the building felt different at this point, as Utah has grabbed hold of all the momentum. However, the Ducks came up big once again when the Utes were forced into another fourth and short. Thomas Graham Jr. broke up Tyler Huntley’s pass, and the Ducks took over near midfield, still up 20-7.

Following the stop, CJ Verdell took the first down carry and ran 24 yards to get Oregon deep in Utah territory. The Ducks were looking like they would answer with a TD of their own, but once again the Utah defense holds them to a FG. 23-7 Oregon in the final minutes of the third quarter.

Utah got caught with a costly holding penalty that backed them up to start their next drive, but Zack Moss got the yardage right back on a huge run. Huntley showed that the Utes were not going to give, as he tossed a 25-yard TD pass to Samson Nacua. The Utes went for two to make it a one score game, and they converted. All of the sudden we had a 23-15 ball game heading into the final quarter.

It seemed that when Oregon’s defense needed to make a stop, they came through. Utah had a chance to potentially tie the game as the final quarter began, but Kayvon Thibodeaux came up with the enormous sack to force a third and very long. Utah punted away on fourth down (a time when it wouldn’t have been crazy to see a fake), and the Ducks would regain possession deep in their own territory.

On third and one at the Oregon 30 yard line, the Ducks offensive line opened up a bowling lane for CJ Verdell to run through. Verdell turned on the jets as he scampered 70 yards nearly untouched to the end zone. Oregon fans could finally breathe a sigh of relief, for the moment. Oregon took a commanding 30-15 lead with just 7 minutes to go in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Duck fans were starting to smell the roses.

The Ducks would force a punt on the next Utah possession. Then Troy Dye made possibly the interception of the year, using his clubbed right hand to secure the catch and seal the win the Oregon. CJ Verdell put the finishing touches on the game when he broke a 31-yard TD run with just 2:33 left on the clock.

Mario Cristobal got the ice bath on a cold evening in Santa Clara, and it couldn’t have been any sweeter. Three years removed from a 4-8 season, Oregon rose to the top of the Pac-12 Conference, out Utah’d Utah, and stamped their ticket to the Rose Bowl.

Final Score: Oregon 37, Utah 15.


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