SANTA CLARA, Calif. — CJ Verdell ran for 208 yards and broke open the game with two long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, and No. 13 Oregon spoiled No. 5 Utah’s hopes of making the College Football Playoff with a 37-15 victory in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night.
The Utes (11-2) came into the game hoping to make a case for one of the four playoff spots with a conference title but instead got overmatched by Oregon (11-2) and lost their second straight Pac-12 championship game.
Oregon will play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against a Big Ten opponent.
Utah fell into a 20-0 hole in the first half and then gave up a 70-yard TD run to Verdell after cutting the deficit to 23-15, perhaps paving the way for the winner of the Big 12 Conference title game between Oklahoma and Baylor to get into the playoff — as long as No. 1 Louisiana State beats No. 4 Georgia for the Southeastern Conference championship.
The Big 12 and SEC title games are Saturday and the CFP selection committee will reveal the four semifinalists Sunday.
“Unfortunately, we came up short tonight,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “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.”
Utah held 11 of its first 12 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing and led the nation by allowing 56.3 yards rushing per game,
The Utes got back into the game in the third quarter with two touchdown passes by Tyler Huntley before a crowd of 38,679 at Levi’s Stadium. He connected with Zack Moss on a 24-yard play to cut it to 20-7 and threw a 25-yarder to Samson Nacua to make the score 23-15 after a two-point conversion.
The Utes then drove into Oregon territory before Huntley was sacked by Keyvon Thibodeaux on second down. Utah ended up punting on fourth-and-four from the Oregon 40 after being stopped on three fourth downs earlier in the game.
Verdell struck with his big run five plays later and added a 31-yard score.
Across the nation
• Mississippi is attempting to hire Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin to be its next coach, a person familiar with the negotiations said.
Ole Miss fired coach Matt Luke on Sunday.
• Howard coach Ron Prince resigned after less than a season on the job, according to multiple reports.
Prince, 50, was placed on administrative leave in November, amid allegations of verbal abuse and intimidation of players.