That Kaelin Clay fumble? Ancient history, baby. Especially after the Utah Utes destroyed Oregon 62-20 Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.
The Utes pummeled Oregon every which way they could. They kicked field goals–to take a 6-0 lead. Then they threw two touchdown passes to go up 20-6. Then Oregon made a game of it for a portion of the second quarter.
Sound familiar? It is a gross understatement to say that the Utes had a bad, ba-aad taste in their mouths from last year–when Clay’s fumble in the second quarter resulted in a 14-point swing and a blowout loss to Oregon.
To think that Utah was perhaps two plays away last season from pulling off the upset, ruining Oregon’s national title chase and spoiling the Heisman Trophy run of Marcus Mariota was possibly too much for many Utes fans to handle going into this year’s game.
And so it was obvious the No. 18 Utes came into Saturday’s duel in Eugene looking for revenge against No. 13 Oregon. You know, they say revenge is a dish best served cold. With 1:00 to go before halftime, the Utes held a slim 20-13 lead and avenging last year’s loss was far from a sure thing
Facing 2nd down and goal from the Oregon 9 though, the Utes enjoyed unprecedented success throwing the football in this game. Wide receiver Caleb Repp sprinted into the end zone untouched on a crossing route, crossing up the Oregon defenders. Quarterback Travis Wilson found Repp there, all alone, for a 9-yard score. After the PAT from the kicker, the Utes were up 27-13 at the half and Oregon wouldn’t get any closer for the rest of the game.
“There’s not a ton to be said. They played great … and we didn’t play well enough to win. That starts and ends with me,” said Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich.
For the most part, the Utes were traditional in the first half, jamming the ball up the gut just enough to open up the throw game in which Wilson found himself to be wildly successful through two quarters, throwing for 137 yards and three scores.
In the third quarter though is where the Utes really flexed their muscles and showed why they handled a good Michigan team in the season opener with a versatile offense. Wilson crept around Oregon’s defense for a 2-yard touchdown run on a read option play.
Then came the trickery to which Oregon fans are accustomed–except it went the other way. By the time Wilson flipped the ball back to Devontae Booker–who had a quiet 104 yards rushing on 22 carries–the running back hurled it downfield towards a streaking Britain Covey.
Covey hauled in Booker’s unorthodox left-handed toss and ran into the end zone, giving the Utes a 41-14 lead with 12:13 left–in the third quarter. Then Repp hauled in another catch from Wilson–who finished with 227 yards and four TD passes–for a score later in the third, giving the Utes a 48-14 lead.
Then came the coup d’etat. Just as the Utes were absolutely fooled–as were the TV cameras–when Clay’s drop at the 1 and fumble was returned for an Oregon touchdown last year, the tables were turned on Oregon Saturday at the end of the third quarter.
A routine punt and fair catch appeared to kick start another Utes drive. But, the intended return man Covey never signaled for a fair catch as the Oregon players formed a flying V formation–ready to swarm on Covey.
Problem was, the ball didn’t go anywhere near Covey. Instead, the ball fluttered towards Utes return man Boobie Hobbs, who calmly caught the punt near his right hash mark. Due to the extra attention placed on Covey, Hobbs found himself in the clear. He sidestepped one Oregon defender and sprinted 69 yards for a touchdown, giving the Utes a 55-14 lead.
In garbage time, the Utes would tack on another touchdown from backup QB Kendal Thompson who would scurry into the end zone on a 6-yard run. But what really happened Saturday was that the Utes beat Oregon at their own game–on their own field–for the first time since 1994 and the first time ever as a Pac-12 Conference member.