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Bo-mentum: Oregon nixes Utes' Pac-12 title shot with road loss


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EUGENE, Ore. β€” With its fourth Pac-12 championship game in five seasons in sight, No. 10 Utah let the moment get away from them on the road against No. 12 Oregon.

It wasn't the hostile environment of Autzen Stadium or the cold temperatures that started at 31 degrees at kickoff and dropped as the game progressed. It was Utah's inability for much of the game to get a push at the line of scrimmage and get points in the red zone.

Utah had three red zone trips in the first half that resulted in just 3 total points β€” a missed field goal and a turnover on downs negated two drives β€” and the Utes found themselves in trouble.

The Utes battled back, though, after the slow start, thanks to a scoop-and-score touchdown by linebacker Karene Reid and an 18-yard rushing touchdown by Jaylen Dixon, to tie up the game 17-all before the Ducks held on for a 20-17 win in the late-night battle.

Oregon won the game on a 41-yard field goal with 11:17 left in the game.

Utah had its chances late in the game β€” three, in fact β€” but could never get over the hump against an Oregon team that gave Utah late opportunities. On the first, Utah quarterback Cam Rising threw the ball at tight end Dalton Kincaid's feet on a pivotal fourth-and-2 deep in Oregon territory that would have been a first down had Kincaid had a chance to catch it.

Clark Phillips III picked off Oregon quarterback Bo Nix with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter when he jumped a pass on the left side β€” his sixth interception of the year β€” to give the Utes another chance. But Rising threw into coverage over the middle four plays later, and Bennett Williams was more than happy to oblige with an interception that helped seal the Ducks' win.

"He's huge, and he was one of the guys in the training room today," Nix told ESPN of Williams after the game. "It's just legitimately toughness; that's all it comes down to. We were tough, we played tough, we played as a team and we played with uncommon purpose.

"I wouldn't trade this team for the world."

Still, Utah had one more opportunity with just over three minutes left in the game when Oregon couldn't pick up a first down and was forced to punt. Rising led the team to midfield, but a fourth-down pass to Solomon Enis was dropped and Utah turned the ball over on down.

Oregon ran out the clock to claim the senior night win and moved one step closer to a Pac-12 championship game appearance against USC.

"Just wasn't good enough," Rising said after the game. "Didn't do what we needed to do to be successful, and kept shooting ourselves in the foot. I gotta play better, personally, myself."

Rising threw for 170 yards and had three picks on 21-of-38 passing; he also ran for 43 yards on the night. Starting running back Tavion Thomas added 55 yards on the ground to lead the Utes on a night when the team finished with 156 rushing yards amid a night the team put up 326 total yards.

"He wasn't at his best tonight, but neither were some other guys, as well," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said of Rising. "And I'm sure some coaches could have been better; I mean, everybody could have been better. But Cam didn't seem to find much of a rhythm tonight like he usually does. Usually, he's able to get into a rhythm but wasn't able to get that tonight."

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, who was questionable leading up to the game, finished the night with 287 passing yards and a touchdown and an interception on 25-of-37 passing. Limited by an injury that kept him from scrambling, Nix's first forward-progress run of the night converted a crucial fourth-and-one in the final minutes to seal the victory.

Although limited, Nix found a way to keep his team ahead in the end.

"It was a tough, hard-fought football game β€” very close, obviously, score wise; statistically, just a battle between two really good teams β€” give them credit, they made a couple more plays than we did," Whittingham said. "We weren't quite in sync on offense tonight β€” never really did get into really much of a rhythm."

The opportunities were there for Utah, but "they made a couple more plays than we did," Whittingham added.

Utah will closeout the regular season on the road in Boulder, Colorado, with a glimmer of hope that chaos ensues to find a way back into the Pac-12 title game β€” though it would take Oregon losing to Oregon State and other game results flipping in Utah's favor.

"I mean, the ultimate goal was just to win the game," Kincaid said. "We weren't able to do that, so it sucks; it hurts a lot. Only thing we can do now is respond well. We've got Colorado next week, so just looking forward to that. We'll watch this film and then move on to that."

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Josh is the Sports Director for KSL.com and beat writer of University of Utah athletics β€” primarily football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. He is also an Associated Press Top 25 voter for college football.

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