The Utah Utes squared off against the Colorado State Rams in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium. Several thousand Rams’ fans showed up in Vegas, sporting their green and gold. However, a sea of red and white filled the stands as if Utah had transplanted their fans from Salt Lake City to Sin City.
The Utes (8-4) had their way with the Rams (10-2) from the outset. Explosive plays, which were a rare commodity throughout their season, became abundant on Saturday against Colorado State. On Utah’s first possession, a trick play fooled the Rams as 6’7 quarterback Travis Wilson found wide receiver/kick returner Kaelin Clay for a huge pitch and catch. The Utes scored a Las Vegas Bowl record 21-points in the first quarter. Colorado State did hang tough, closing the gap to 14-7 in the opening quarter with a trick play of their own. Senior wide receiver Charles Lovett III found senior quarterback Garrett Grayson on a throwback pass for a 40-yard score.
After starting the third quarter in promising fashion with a drive deep into Utah territory, the Rams squandered a great opportunity to close the margin to 24-17. After eventually missing a field goal to end the drive, the Utes ran wild. Inevitably, Colorado State was trucked by Utah, 45-10. The Las Vegas Bowl victory marked their fifth win in the bowl in fifteen years. Overall, the Utah program is 14-4 overall in bowl games (best in the FBS), and head coach Kyle Whittingham is a ludicrous 8-1. The man prepares his young men extraordinarily well for the postseason.
Colorado State played in their old school Colorado A&M Aggie uniforms – not a good look or a good omen for the Rams. As a CSU graduate, I think their green and gold gear was in order. Grayson did have some success throwing the ball, and Biletnikoff finalist Rashard Higgins, did have over 100-yards receiving in the game. Well, that did not matter as running back Dee Hart and the Rams’ rushing attack was completely stifled. Give all of the credit to the defensive front of the Utes, who imposed their strength and will on the Rams’ offensive line.
An amazing statistic for Utah throughout their 2014 campaign was their ability to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The Utes’ defense accounted for 52 total sacks on the year, including 36 sacks from a pass rush of four or less linemen.
On the opposite side of the football, the Utah offensive line handled Colorado State’s defensive front, rushing for 359 total yards on Saturday and only allowed a meager 12 yards on the ground for the Rams. Running back Devontae Booker provided the spark for the Utes who compiled 162 total yards on the ground.
With former head coach Jim McElwain leaving Fort Collins for Gainesville, the Colorado State program will have to decide on his successor. Dave Baldwin, the Rams offensive coordinator and interim head coach, has a chance to take over the program. However, Colorado State will search and interview nationwide before making a decision.
For Utah, a clean slate in 2015 could mean great things on the horizon with a shot at the Pac-12 and national supremacy.
*Section Photo and Featured Photo (above) credit to Ethan Miller, Getty Images.