LAS VEGAS — Behind quarterback Travis Wilson’s four total touchdowns and running back Devontae Booker’s 18 rushes for 134 yards and a score, the Utah Utes trampled the Colorado State Rams 45-10 to win the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium.
It marks the second-straight year that a Mountain West team was blown out by a Pac-12 team in the Las Vegas Bowl after then-No. 19 USC defeated Fresno St. 45-20 last season.
The Rams entered the contest knowing they had to contend with the stout Utah defense, but they didn’t account for an explosive Utah offense that scored touchdowns on all three of its first three drives and continued to pile up points throughout the game. Saturday’s loss marks the worst loss for CSU in 17 years.
“We didn’t execute the way we wanted,” CSU interim head coach Dave Baldwin said. “They are a very good football team, we knew they were, and they took it to us. Of course that’s not the way we wanted to end the season.”
Wilson finished 17 of 26 for just 158 yards and a touchdown and interception, but he did his damage in the running game where he rushed for three scores. The Rams had difficulty stopping the Utes’ rushing attack, allowing 332 yards on the ground including rushes of 60 and 49 yards.
“We were prepared for the zone read,” senior linebacker Max Morgan said. “But (we had) a couple missed tackles, couple missed assignments. Hindsight is 20-20 but you’ve got to give credit to (Utah) and their scheme and their execution.”
The Utah defense was everything the Rams expected and more, stuffing Dee Hart, Treyous Jarrells and the Rams’ rushing attack and allowing just 12 total rushing yards on 13 attempts. The Utes’ pass rush also did an exceptional job at getting to Rams senior quarterback Garrett Grayson, limiting him to 20 of 34 passing for 227 yards and an interception.
“I’m very surprised,” Grayson said of the final score. “We were more than prepared and they just came out and punched us in the mouth and we didn’t necessarily punch them back like we’ve done so many times. You don’t want to allow a defensive line like that to be able to do that.”
CSU received the ball first but had to punt to Utah after a quick three-and-out. On Utah’s first offensive play of the game, they ran a trick pass play and picked up 36 yards. The drive ended with Utah quarterback Travis Wilson running into the end zone untouched for the 8-yd touchdown with 12:37 left in the 1st quarter.
After another Rams three-and-out, Utah running back Troy McCormick burst for a 49-yard run which set up sophomore receiver Delshawn McClellon for the wide open 16-yard touchdown reception from Wilson to give Utah a 14-0 lead.
The Rams scored their first points of the game on a trick play of their own. Grayson lateraled to senior receiver Charles Lovett who then passed the ball back to Grayson who ran 39 yards for the touchdown, lowering the Utes’ lead to 14-7 with 5:42 left in the first quarter.
Just seconds after CSU’s score, Utah running back Devontae Booker was handed the ball on first down and took it 60 yards for the touchdown to increase the Utes’ lead to 21-7.
CSU’s Rashard Higgins was able to haul in a 59-yard catch from Grayson which set up a Jared Roberts’ 41-yard field goal to cut the Utes’ lead to 21-10 with 2:09 left in the first quarter. Higgins finished with seven receptions for 109 yards, his 10th game this season with over 100 yards.
Utes kicker Andy Phillips connected on a 38-yard field goal with 8:25 left in the first half to give the Utes a 24-10 lead which remained the score until halftime.
Grayson was pressured and hurried on nearly all of his drop backs in the second half and the Rams offense couldn’t take shots down the field. CSU’s offensive linemen were visibly frustrated at the end of the game after having to deal with perhaps the best defensive front in all of college football.
The Utes’ offense was able to take advantage of several CSU turnovers and score on runs of 15 and 12 yards by Wilson and on a 10-yard run by junior running back Bubba Poole to account for the final score.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Grayson said. “From where we came from as freshman — we were 3-9 for three years in a row — to come and win 10 games our senior year, that’s something not many teams can say they can do. To go out your senior year with a bang like that, it’s pretty special and hopefully we left something behind that (the freshmen) can keep it rollin’.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_