Sunday, December 21, 2014

Utah: 2014 Las Vegas Bowl Champions

Las Vegas • Colorado State’s vaunted passing attack dried up and wilted while Utah’s maligned offense buried the Rams in the Mojave Desert.

Before 33,067 fans at UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium — three-fourths wearing red — Utah made the most of its first bowl appearance in three years.

Some had wondered how these Utes would fare against a powerhouse from their old conference. Their answer: 45-10.

Junior quarterback Travis Wilson was named most valuable player, Kyle Whittingham tied John Robinson for the best bowl win percentage in NCAA history among coaches with at least seven wins, at 8-1, and fans who planned on attending the Runnin’ Utes game against UNLV later Saturday night were able to leave early for the nightcap.

It’s what Utah had been waiting for.

"That really was a product of the preparation of the last three weeks," Whittingham said. "All they had to do was come out and do what they did the last three weeks and execute."

On Utah’s very first play, Wilson handed it to Devontae Booker, who pitched it to Jason Thompson, who threw it back to Wilson, who heaved it 36 yards downfield to Kaelin Clay.

Any notion that offensive coordinator Dave Christensen would be too conservative was quickly dispelled.

Two plays later, Wilson jogged in from 8 yards out for his first of three rushing touchdowns, to complement 158 yards and another score through the air.

Colorado State interim head coach Dave Baldwin said afterward that Utah’s offensive firepower — they totaled 548 yards, 359 on the ground — surprised him.

The fight went out of his Rams when sophomore defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi recovered a third-quarter fumble and Wilson darted over the goal line, followed by an interception from senior linebacker Jacoby Hale that led to a 10-yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Bubba Poole.

The Rams were on their back foot from the opening kick, though.

Redshirt freshman running back Troy McCormick broke free for 49 yards, on Utah’s second drive — on just his fifth carry since Week Two — and another redshirt freshman, wideout Delshawn McClellon, caught a 16-yard Wilson pass in the back left corner of the end zone.

But while the Rams couldn’t match the Utes’ class, in the earlygoing, at least, they didn’t lack for sass.

CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson tossed a lateral pass to wideout Charles Lovett, who fired it right back, and Grayson trailed a herd of Ram blockers 39 yards to the end zone.

After Booker rumbled 60 yards for a first-down score, the Rams then responded with a 59-yard connection between Grayson and Biletnikoff finalist Rashard Higgins and a 41-yard Jared Roberts field goal to make it 21-10 — the highest-scoring first quarter in Las Vegas Bowl history.

Grayson finished with 227 yards, giving him 4,006 for the season, but struggled as Utah’s down linemen applied regular pressure.

"I’m very surprised, to be honest," he said. "I never, in a million years, saw that score happening."
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