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Trench Play Cost Utah Pac-12 Championship

Oregon Ducks defensive tackle Popo Aumavae (50) blocks the left side of the field during the Pac-12 Championship game between the Oregon Ducks and the Utah Utes on December 6, 2019, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. (Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The trend for Utah’s 8-game winning streak entering the Pac-12 Championship game was their dominance on both defensive and offensive line.

That wasn’t the case against the Oregon Ducks as the Utes lost the conference title game, 37-15.

The matchup to watch entering the game was the play of Utah’s defensive line against Oregon’s offensive line, both units are among the best in the country.

“Unfortunately we came up short tonight,” Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game. “Disappointing thing is we lost in the one area we’ve been undefeated this year: Line of scrimmage. We didn’t win the line of scrimmage for the first time all season, which is, like I say, disappointing. Surprising really.”

On the defensive line for Utah, they weren’t able to fluster Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who finished with 193 yards, one touchdown and only sacked him once.

Oregon was most effective in the running game. C.J. Verdell racked up 208 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. He was named Pac-12 Championship Game MVP. Utah gave up 239 rushing yards, which is the most this season. The Utes defense was averaging 56 rushing yards allowed per game entering the title game.

“That’s something we’ve been doing well all year,” safety Terrell Burgess said after the game. “I guess tonight we just didn’t do it well. I mean, there were some gaps that were there. We didn’t make tackles, we didn’t hold them to what we thought we should have.

On the offensive line for Utah, they struggled. Quarterback Tyler Huntley was sacked six times, including 2.5 sacks from Oregon freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Utes also committed 8 penalties.

Running back Zack Moss had 113 yards on the ground, but the Utes only rushed for 115 yards total.

“Really at a loss of words,” Moss said after the game. “We just lost the battle in the trenches where we have been good at all year. We felt confident coming in that we were going to do that again. Their offensive line breaks our D-Line at the line, versus their offensive line.”

The Utes dropped to 11-2 on the season. They will find out their bowl game and opponent on Sunday.

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