It was closer than the final score looked. Really. For most of the game, it was a serious contest with upset potential written all over it, before No. 17 Utah committed a few mistakes too many, allowing No. 4 Oregon to pull away with a 51-27 win.
The Utes were able to keep it close with ferocious defensive play most of this game and an inspired night by Travis Wilson, who came off the bench for an injured Kendall Thompson to throw for 297 yards on 18-of-28 passing. Believe it or not, his second touchdown of the night, a 13-yard pass to Westlee Tonga actually pulled the Utes to within three at 30-27 with 11:48 to play.
Then, Oregon blew the doors off, scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions. Utah was unable to keep pace amid the flurry of scores, missing a field goal, throwing an interception -- one of four turnovers on the evening -- and punting on a three-and-out. That was enough for the Ducks to coast the rest of the quarter.
Still, thoughts of this game will linger for a long time in Salt Lake City. If receiver Kaelin Clay hadn't committed an all-time blunder in the first half, fumbling short of the end zone on a premature celebration, the Utes would have had a 14-0 lead early on. Instead, Utah saw the game tied up, as that fumble was taken back 99 yards for an Oregon touchdown, changing the entire tenor of the contest.
1. Injuries are really getting to the Ducks. They've already suffered more than their fair share of personnel losses this season with multiple starters going down for the year. The injury tally grew with a few more nicks and dings against the Utes. Now, the Ducks could still survive to make it to the Playoffs, but at some point, even a team as talented as Oregon, becomes strapped for depth. Take, for example, the loss of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu early in the first half, which undoubtedly played a large part in reviving Utah's previously non-existent passing attack -- the Utes came into the game averaging 175 yards passing, then exploded for more than 300.
Then, there was a disastrous fourth quarter. Starting center Hroniss Grasu headed to the locker room early with a left leg injury. On the drive that would eventually ice the game for Oregon, tight end Pharaoh Brown hurt his knee running a route and was carted off.
Needless to say, these losses would give the Ducks an even tougher road to their National Championship aspirations than before. It may not matter as long as they have Mariota, though.
2. The road to Santa Clara and the Pac-12 Championship is all clear, though. With the Stanford problem already taken care of and this close call avoided, all that's left for the Ducks is Colorado after a bye and rival Oregon State. Both games that Oregon will be heavily favored in. The North is already locked up with this victory, so there is plenty of time for the Ducks to at least try to get healthy.
3. Not enough people are talking about Devontae Booker. Royce Freeman gets more press up in Eugene, the state of Arizona boasts both D.J. Foster and Nick Wilson, and at USC there's Javorius "Buck" Allen. Fine. Hidden away in Salt Lake, Booker has quietly put up numbers that rival all of them, with far less supporting talent. There hasn't been any passing threats to take the pressure off of him this season, and defenses know well that he will touch the ball. It rarely matters -- Booker came into the game on Saturday having rushed for more than 140 yards in four of his last five contests. Oregon held him below the century mark, but he still found a way to contribute via the screen game, catching eight passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.