A Grip on Sports: The Rose Bowl never fails to deliver and it did again Saturday, though the payoff wasn’t what Pac-12 fans wanted

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Made two New Year’s resolutions. Broke one New Year’s resolution during the Rose Bowl game. Sports, man.

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• There is one word we didn’t want to use any more. At least not in 2022. But when Utah quarterback Cam Rising’s head hit the Rose Bowl turf late in Ohio State’s epic 48-45 win Saturday, we uttered it. (And we did again a little later in the day when Mississippi’s Matt Corral also went down.)

Not in anger, which means in reality we didn’t truly break our resolution. But in sadness. Too often a great football game is decided by who gets hurt and who doesn’t. That wasn’t the case in this one, at least as far as this injury was concerned, but at the point Rising went out, it seemed as if it would.

Once again we were presented with a Rose Bowl game for the ages. It just didn’t end the way anyone but Ohio State fans would have wanted.

For the Utah faithful, they were left wondering once more what could have been. What could have been if their quarterback had been able to finish, if their defensive backs were healthy – have you ever watched another major bowl game that included a running back also playing cornerback consistently? – and if their head coach had an better grasp on managing the clock. Oh, and if two of Ohio State’s better receivers hadn’t opted out of the game, drawing the ire of Kirk Herbstreit. Maybe the Buckeyes wouldn’t have moved the ball so successfully.

After a year of unfathomable sadness, the Utes had a chance to finish it with something their school had never done before. But winning their first Rose Bowl game was just not in the cards. Their defensive backfield, decimated by injury to such a degree that running back Micah Bernard was actually their leading tackler, gave up yards at an alarming rate. The Buckeye receivers, especially Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who set a bowl game record with 347 receiving yards, ran free all afternoon. Actually, the Utes couldn’t cover Smith-Njigba or anyone else, as OSU quarterback C.J. Stroud threw for 574 yards and six touchdowns.

Let’s repeat that. He threw for 574 yards. Funny, it seemed like more.

And, yet, when Utah backup quarterback Bryson Barnes connected with tight end Dalton Kincaid for a 15-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 54 seconds left, the Utes were even at 45. Still, everyone who had been watching another perfect New Year’s Day from Pasadena knew Ohio State was going to win. It was just about the how.

And that’s where Kyle Whittingham’s inability to understand how time works made it so maddening. Going home with three timeouts? That seems wrong. Somehow, though, we do not believe it would it have made any difference if he had called them. The way Ohio State was moving the ball, the Utes best bet might have been letting the Buckeyes score a touchdown on their first play, then hope they could march down the field, score as the clock expired and convert a two-point try.

Anything less would have ended in another Buckeye celebration.

And those of us rooting for the Pac-12’s representative uttering a word we didn’t want to utter.

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WSU: More than a few Cougar followers probably uttered a bunch of bad words the way their team began Friday morning’s Sun Bowl. Jacob Thorpe puts the onus for that directly on new head coach Jake Dickert. … The Cougars attracted a defensive back for next season. Colton Clark has that story. … Remember Tay Martin? Most Cougar fans do. You might have forgotten he transferred to Oklahoma State, however. Until he caught three touchdown passes (and made one other spectacular grab) for the Cowboys in their 37-35 Fiesta Bowl comeback win over Notre Dame. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and college football, the bowl season was awful for the conference. Again. Jon Wilner delves into that in the Mercury News. … Oregon has won another battle with Washington. The Ducks enticed receiver coach Junior Adams to leave Seattle and head to Eugene. More than likely a couple receivers will follow. … Utah stands in USC’s way right now as the Trojans try to ascend to the top of the Pac-12. But that shouldn’t last. … A Colorado receiver with a famous name is headed out of Boulder. … One receiver could make a huge difference for Arizona. … In basketball news, there was one game yesterday. Oregon made sure Utah had an awful weekend in the Willamette Valley, topping the Utes 79-66. … Arizona State will play at California today. It’s a rescheduled game. … If scoring is what matters to you, you will love Terrell Brown Jr. and how he’s played for Washington. … Colorado is out to regain some lost momentum.

Gonzaga: The West Coast Conference schedule for the weekend was wiped from the face of the earth, due to COVID-19. But that didn’t stop Jim Meehan from examining the best players in the conference not wearing Gonzaga uniforms. Or from looking at the Zags’ biggest tests this conference season. … He also has this story on Killian Tille earning a multi-year contract.

EWU: The Eagles didn’t have many players available for Saturday afternoon’s game at Northern Arizona. No matter. The six who played led them to a 78-65 win and a weekend sweep. Dan Thompson has this story. … Around the Big Sky, Montana held off Weber State in Missoula. … Montana State did the same with Idaho State. … Yet Northern Colorado is atop the conference standings after winning at Southern Utah. … In football, Montana State and North Dakota State are connected at the very top.

Seahawks: The Hawks last home game of the season is surrounded by uncertainty. At the center of it all is coach Pete Carroll.

Kraken: We thought the “Slap Shot” story from yesterday was interesting. But today’s on the Seattle fan who may have saved a Vancouver Canucks employee’s life is even more so. … The Canucks didn’t show any gratitude, winning 5-2 in Seattle.  

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• We’re going to try to make a pulled chicken sandwich today. Wish us luck. It’s the final time this Seahawk season we will try something from the opponent’s city we’ve never eaten before. Until later …

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