PK: Rose Bowl Promises To Entertain With Strength On Strength Matchup

Dec 29, 2022, 2:55 PM
Cole Bishop - Utah vs. Ohio State Rose Bowl...
Cole Bishop #6 of the Utah Utes reacts after recovering a fumble against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second quarter in the Rose Bowl Game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – Morgan Scalley does not have to look far trying to find an offensive style that Rose Bowl opponent Penn State employs.

Utah’s defensive coordinator sees it every day in practice from Utah’s offense, which for nearly 20 years under coach Kyle Whittingham has featured a run-first philosophy. Led by freshmen running backs Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen, the Nittany Lions are almost a replica of Utah.

A physical runner capable of lowering his shoulder to gain extra yardage, the 219-pound Singleton rushed for 941 yards with an average of 6.3 yards per play. Allen, who averaged 5.3 yards a carry on 830 yards, is more of a slasher.

“If a team can play smashmouth football and beat you up running the ball, it’s a long day – no fun,” said Scalley, who also compared Penn State to Pac-12 opponent Oregon State.

With redshirt senior quarterback Sean Clifford, who has four years of significant experience, Penn State has enough balance to keep the Utes guessing on defense. Clifford is the all-time program leader in completion percentage (.612), completions (817), passing yards (10,382), passing touchdowns (84), and attempts (1,335), and a Rose Bowl win would make him the leader in wins at 32.

In a real sense, given Utah’s history of having a stout run defense, the game on Monday will feature strength on strength.

“I’m just really impressed with their run game,” said Utah linebacker Karene Reid. “If we don’t do a good job of gap control, they’re going to make us pay. Those running backs combined are the real deal.

Happiest Place On Earth

As part of Rose Bowl tradition, players and coaches along with their families from both teams visited Disneyland on Wednesday. Up Thursday is Prime Rib at Lawry’s Beef Bowl in Beverly Hills.

“I’m a Disneyland guy,” Scalley said. “My family goes every year. We kind of know the route. It was a neat experience for the guys on the team who haven’t done it before. You could tell how many loved it and who didn’t by who hit the first bus out.”

Reid was one of the players to make an early exit, but not because he didn’t like it. Outside of riding the teacups, there wasn’t much for his 6-month-old son, Manu, to do.

“Once my 6-month-old son was done, we were done,” Reid said. “We caught the first bus back, but it was good to be around the guys and see what Disneyland has to offer.”

From A Dukie To A Ute

Never in his wildest imagination did Cole Bishop think the decision to change his commitment from Duke to Utah would work out so well.

Playing high school football in Georgia, Utah’s starting strong safety originally intended to sign with Duke before Utah showed interest. But Scalley’s presentation on Utah’s great history on defense won him over literally sight unseen.

Bishop first learned from his high school position coach, who is a Florida fan, that Utah produced a pipeline of players to the NFL. He and his parents were hooked on the Utes before even visiting the campus.

Utah’s family atmosphere and success on defense won them over. Two years later, with two Rose Bowl berths, safe to say the Bishops made a wise decision.

“Coach Scalley messaged me on Twitter, and I didn’t know a single thing about Utah football,” Bishop said. “He was just sending me graphics of statistics and everything.”

Follow PK on Twitter here for analysis and insight from the 2023 Rose Bowl and beyond.

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PK: Rose Bowl Promises To Entertain With Strength On Strength Matchup