BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — The loudest roar from the Utah fans came at the end of a blowout of Colorado at Folsom Field and had nothing to do with what was happening on the field.
It followed the scoreboard flashing Oregon State knocking off Oregon. A big hurdle cleared.
In the end, all the variables Utah needed to have happen in order to get a spot in the Pac-12 championship game fell perfectly in line. That included the final one long after leaving the stadium.
Cameron Rising threw three touchdown passes Saturday before taking a seat for the second half, Ja’Quinden Jackson ran for three scores and No. 14 Utah routed Colorado 63-21 on a night that culminated with the Utes securing the last spot into the conference title game.
Utah (9-3, 7-2 Pac-12, No. 14 CFP) entered the weekend with an outside shot at getting a chance to defend its league title. But things started falling into place. No. 17 UCLA did its part for Utah by defeating Cal on Friday. Then, the big assist — No. 22 Oregon State storming back to beat 10th-ranked Oregon.
The last component to go their way happened early Sunday, with No. 12 Washington winning at Washington State. The concoction created a three-way tie between the Utes, Ducks and Huskies. Utah’s league opponents had the highest combined winning percentage in conference games and gave the Utes the final spot. They will play No. 5 USC next Friday in Las Vegas.
Utah handed the Trojans their only loss last month.
“We’ll be ready for it,” Rising said after the game.
The Utes built a 42-0 halftime lead and steadily started sprinkling in their backups. It didn’t slow the Utes, who had 662 total yards of offense. Jackson scored on runs of 10, 2 and 66 yards.
The 63 points was the most allowed by Colorado since Oregon scored 70 on Oct. 27, 2012, in Eugene.
“You have to look really hard at it to find a negative,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
The Buffaloes (1-11, 1-8) brought to a close a dreary season that saw head coach Karl Dorrell dismissed in October and interim coach Mike Sanford go 1-6 in his place. The team lost seven games by 30 or more points.
“I told the team after the game in the locker room that I don’t believe in moral victories normally, but tonight I do,” Sanford said. “This group of players made football fun for me.”
A coaching search is underway at Colorado with rumors swirling around names such as Deion Sanders and Bronco Mendenhall. There was a fan in the south end zone wearing a suit featuring Colorado logos and a bag over their head. On the back of the bag was a letter to “ Coach Prime,” urging Sanders to come to Boulder.
Maddox Kopp became the fourth Buffaloes quarterback to start this season. He finished with 123 yards passing and a late 1-yard touchdown to offensive lineman turned tight end Frank Fillip.
Utah tight ends Thomas Yassmin and Dalton Kincaid each turned in acrobatic scoring plays in the first half. Yassmin showed off his athleticism by catching a short pass and hurdling over cornerback Nikko Reed on his way to a 41-yard score.
Not to be outdone, Kincaid looked left on a long pass and quickly swiveled to the right to haul in a 29-yard pass from Rising while falling to the turf. Kincaid stayed down for several moments after the play.
Utah: The Utes finish the regular season with nine wins for a fourth time in five seasons.
Colorado: The Buffaloes dropped to 4-37 against AP top-25 teams since becoming members of the Pac-12 in 2011, according to Pac-12 research.
The announced attendance was 33,474. It’s the lowest mark at Folsom Field (not counting the 2020 pandemic season) since Nov. 29, 2014, against Utah.
For 21 or so Buffaloes players, this was their last time running out onto Folsom Field behind live buffalo mascot Ralphie. Senior tight end Brady Russell felt a sense of contentment, he said.
“Because I know I personally gave everything I could,” Russell said. “I have no regrets.”
Utah: A berth in the Pac-12 title game.
Colorado: Naming a coach and preparing for 2023.
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