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'You've got to carry on': Utes lay it all out in win for Ty Jordan, Aaron Lowe

Utah players celebrate a win over Southern California in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Utah players celebrate a win over Southern California in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

LOS ANGELES — As time expired on the clock, Utah didn't need any last-minute heroics to get a win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Saturday night's was an offensive explosion where Utah controlled the game from kickoff until the final whistle was blown in a 42-26 win behind an "outstanding" performance of quarterback Cameron Rising.

The win, which was a long time coming as one of only two road destinations in the Pac-12 Utah had never won, was more than what the final scoreboard read. It was triumph over a grueling year of tragedy for a program that had lost two teammates to shootings in a nine-month period.

The win was for No. 22 — Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.

The lead-up to the road game was anything but easy for the program. Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham described it as "a lot on our plate." The bye week was "low key," in terms of practicing, but filled with grief.

Whittingham, though, "had a feeling" that the team's grief had shifted to motivation — motivation to come closer as a team with one collective purpose to fight for their brothers.

The change, to some extent, came after Lowe's mother Donna Lowe-Sterns, who immediately traveled to Salt Lake City after her son's death, visited with the team over the bye week.

She told the team: "Hey, you guys have got to carry on and you've got work to do, you've got a season to play," Whittingham recounted after Saturday's game. It was permission to channel their grief through the game of football that brought them all together.

And whether it was her message or a collective effort to win for Jordan and Lowe, it all came out in a nearly flawless and balanced game against an opponent that Utah has battled every year since joining the Pac-12.

"It's super special. I feel like the guys played with a lot of passion with the recent events that took place," corner Clark Phillips III said. "And it was just good to get a victory, man; it was special to us, and I'm just glad that we came out of here victorious."

Once the final whistle was blown, Utah celebrated its win with the fans that traveled to the game — similar to any road game — but in this win, Jordan and Lowe were with them through the memories of all in attendance.

As Texas transfer quarterback Ja'Quinden Jackson walked off the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, he carried a sign honoring Jordan and Lowe — the two guys that brought him to Utah in the first place.

Offensive lineman Nick Ford carried a similar sign — one that had the number 22 as a heart with TJAL inside.

"It's a breath of fresh air after what we've been through. To see their — just sheer enjoyment, that's the best way to describe it," Whittingham said. "They, obviously, had Ty and Aaron on their mind. I mean it's gonna be a constant the rest of the season … but to see them have the success they had tonight, it was great. I think this team needed that. I know it did."

As good as the first-ever win at the Coliseum was, it was an after thought.

"Credit to our players for their preparation overcoming adversity. … Proud of the guys, that's the bottom line, so proud of them and how they hung in there and just played with such passion and such inspiring football," Whittingham said.

The grief isn't over — Utah still has Lowe's funeral to attend Monday in the Dallas, Texas, area — but it's the first step to healing … again.

"I think we just … play it day by day — use this to make us stronger as a team," Phillips said. "I feel like that's what got us this win today. We said in the beginning of the week when the things happened, it's either gonna divide us or it's gonna bring us closer together as a family, and we're choosing to let this bring us closer.

"I feel like that's the same perspective that we're going to kind of take when we travel down to Texas and then we get back into the play of things."

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