PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Utah’s Cam Rising saw his dream of winning the Rose Bowl end early due to injury for the second straight season.
The junior injured his left leg during the third quarter Monday against Penn State in the 109th edition of the “Granddaddy of Them All.” The seventh-ranked Utes trailed 21-14 when Rising was injured, but they lost their momentum after that and ended up losing to the No. 9 Nittany Lions 35-21.
“It almost seemed we lost a little bit of our mojo when that happened. We had a little bit of a deflation on our team, and that’s not the right way to respond,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “We needed to respond better than we did, and it’s unfortunate that we had the dropoff that we did.”
Midway through the third quarter, Rising scrambled left on third-and-7 from Utah’s 28-yard line before he was hit by Penn State’s Kevin Winston, Zakee Wheatley and Daequan Hardy at the 37 after a 9-yard gain.
Rising got up and tried to take a couple steps before going down to the turf. After being helped off the field, Rising went into the medical tent on the Utah sideline before heading to the locker room.
Whittingham said the early indications were it was a significant injury for Rising pending confirmation from the medical staff.
“It doesn’t look good; I can tell you that,” Whittingham said. “Looks like it could be something that takes a while to recover from. That’s not positive right now.”
Rising — who finished 8 of 21 for 95 yards with a touchdown and an interception — eventually returned to the sideline in street clothes midway through the fourth quarter.
It was another tough Rose Bowl for Rising, a Southern California native who said leading up to the game that his dream growing up was to be on the podium lifting up the trophy as the winning team. Last year against Ohio State, he hit his head hard on the turf in the fourth quarter and didn’t return to the game.
Rising had been dealing with a left knee injury for most of the season. He didn’t play in the Oct. 27 game against Washington State.
Last year against Ohio State, Bryson Barnes came in and led Utah to a tying touchdown before the Buckeyes won 48-45 on a late field goal. The Utes though were unable to rally this time with Barnes under center.
Five plays after entering the game, Barnes was picked off by Ji’Ayir Brown at the Penn State 20. Utah was forced to punt on its next three drives and gained only 19 yards.
Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said his unit had scouted Barnes throughout the week and were prepared in case he came into the game.
“We actually had a lot of respect for him. That’s the first thing we told our players when he came in. It’s like, ‘Guys, this guy can play.’ He can run and he can throw,” Diaz said. “We were able to get the big interception, you know, and I think that’s where the momentum of the game changed.”
The Nittany Lions would put the game away with touchdowns on two straight second-half drives, including an 88-yard TD pass from Sean Clifford to KeAndre Lambert-Smith.
“On film it looked like they run a corner on that route. He did start out on the corner and then broke vertical. So that was a great game plan,” safety RJ Hubert said.
Barnes felt like Utah matched Penn State’s physicality during the first half, but were unable to respond as the game wore on.
“We knew coming in that they’ve got a good secondary and rotations on different things, especially blitzes,” said Barnes, who was 10 of 19 for 112 yards with a touchdown and interception.
The Utes are the first team since Wisconsin in 2013 to lose consecutive Rose Bowls. The last Pac-12 team to do that was Southern California in 1989.
Rising was thinking about entering the NFL draft, but there is a possibility he could return for his senior season if injured. The Utes (10-4) should have most of their team coming back as they try for a third straight Pac-12 title.
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