clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Brad Rock: You can't spell Rose Bowl without any 'O'

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It was just what Kyle Whittingham hoped. Keep the score low, stay within reach, ugly things up. Friday in the Pac-12 championship game, he got all that. Especially the ugly part. His team covered fewer than 200 yards.

There are bank lines longer than that.

The problem that has been tugging at the Utes much of the year returned.

The defense did its part.

The offense did its thing — it stalled.

Final tally: Washington 10, Utah 3. Nobody scored an offensive touchdown.

For more excitement, please find the plumbing supply section of your weekly mailer.

So Washington goes to the Rose Bowl and the Utes await their destination. It’s unlikely to be the Alamo Bowl, which bills itself the best of the non-New Year’s Six bowls. It might be the Holiday Bowl, which would still be the best they’ve seen since the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Or it could be the Sun Bowl, their 2011 appointment.

As for the Rose Bowl, a team without “O” doesn’t go.

This shouldn’t have been a surprise. Utah has shown a tendency to idle. Besides that, the game featured the conference’s stingiest defenses. Washington’s 306 yards didn’t exactly make history.

No wonder it ended up looking like a baseball score.

So now it’s something the Utes must fix in four weeks. Don’t count them out. Whittingham is as consistent as it gets in December.

“We’ve had to move on from a lot of stuff this season and we’ll continue to come back,” Whittingham said. “We’ve had bowl games where guys take it seriously.”

Nobody plays better when there’s less to play for than they hoped.

Utah got a break early Friday night when a Washington pass glanced off a receiver, hit the leg of another Husky player, caromed off a streetlight, caught a westbound transit bus and landed in the hands Javelin Guidry. It staved off a looming Washington score in the second quarter.

Strangely, it was another pinball play that decided the outcome. A Jason Shelley pass shimmied crazily off Siaosi Mariner and into the hands of Byron Murphy, who turned it into a 66-yard score late in the third quarter. The score never changed after that.

It seemed the gridiron gods were messing with the Utes.

As the fourth quarter began, Washington’s one-touchdown lead might as well have been a hundred. Utah stalled like Bay Bridge traffic. The final knell came on a Washington interception with 4:27 to go.

Tempting as it is to blame the Utes for a listless offensive performance, a month ago, Utah’s offense was looking good. Don’t be surprised if the Utes find something for the bowl game.

Even when it’s nothing more than last year’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Utes are extremely good at making something out of nothing. Making something out of their offense is the trick.

Eighty minutes before kickoff, commissioner Larry Scott held a press conference extolling the merits of the beleaguered league that was the subject of a series in The Oregonian about, among other things, extravagant spending. Scott called his conference “very, very efficient” with its finances.

But it hasn’t been terribly efficient generating heat.

That’s why there’s a chance the South Division’s winner could end up playing in the Sun Bowl.

Scott pointed out that nine of the conference’s 12 teams were ranked during the season. But none ended up good enough to make the playoffs.

Coming out of the locker room at half, trailing 3-0, the Utes suddenly got aggressive: a 25-yard pass to Jaylen Dixon. A throw to Bryan Thompson nearly set Utah up on the Washington 17, but it was ruled incomplete. That was followed by a pass to Demari Simpkins for 16. Now they were in range, if only because they have Matt Gay. He set up 53 yards out and made it, tying the score.

It stands to reason Utah’s first shot at the Rose Bowl would be homely enough to make children cry. Whittingham's teams have their beautiful moments, but his favorite play is a recovered fumble or a sack. Maybe that’s why he once went through seven offensive coordinators in seven years.

On Friday they would have welcomed back any who could generate a score.