- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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A breakdown of what went down as No. 22 Utah took down Colorado State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl 45-10.
How the game was won: A fast, strong start that was sustained throughout all four quarters. In the first period, Utah scored 21 points on the heels of quarterback Travis Wilson’s 5-of-6 passing for 71 yards and one touchdown (as well as a Wilson rushing touchdown). The Utah defense held Colorado State in check throughout. The Rams (10-3) got 10 points in the first quarter but none the rest of the way. The Utes held them to 12 yards rushing for the day and allowed them to convert only 1 of 10 third downs.
Game ball goes to: Wilson. He finished with 158 passing yards (17-of-26) and one touchdown. He added 91 yards on the ground and three touchdowns on just five carries. He made big plays for the Utes, putting him in the front-runner spot for the starting job in 2015.
However, for a moment it looked like it was going to be more of the same for the Utes (read: more quarterback injuries and games with a back and forth between Wilson and another QB), as early in the third quarter Wilson left briefly with a lower leg injury. This prompted Utah coach Kyle Whittingham to put junior quarterback Jason Thompson into the game. However, unlike previous games, it didn’t last long. Wilson shook off the injury and got back on the field, making big rushing plays for the Utes (9-4).
It was over when: The Rams struggled to find any kind of an offensive spark, save their first-quarter scoring drive in which they went 77 yards on five plays, ending in a 39-yard receiving touchdown. When Colorado State didn’t strike early after halftime, the game seemed out of reach and was completely over when Garrett Grayson fumbled an early fourth-quarter snap on second-and-10. Wilson scored on the ensuing play, rushing for a 12-yard touchdown.
Stat of the game: 347 -- that's the difference in rushing yards between the Utes and the Rams. Utah was led by Devontae Booker, who finished with one rushing touchdown and 162 rushing yards -- his seventh 100-yard rushing game in the Utes' last 10. Meanwhile, the Utah front seven -- led by All-Everything defensive end Nate Orchard -- kept Colorado State's rushing attack in check. Coming into this bowl game, the Rams were averaging 172 rushing yards a game. To hold a team like that to just 12 yards is quite the feat.
Best play: We’re going with two -- a pair of trick plays (one from each team) that came early in the game.
This was the Utes’ first play. Whittingham wasn’t joking around and he wanted to come out guns blazin’, so he did just that. Thompson ended up with the ball on a reverse early in the first quarter, threw a lateral to Wilson, who then connected with wide receiver Kaelin Clay on a first down. It was only a 17-yard completion but in the grand scheme of things this certainly set the tone for the Utes offensively.
And two can play that game. Though this was the Rams’ only touchdown, it was a flashy and memorable one. Grayson threw to wide receiver Charles Lovett who threw a lateral back to Grayson, who then took the ball the final 42 yards to the end zone. This score pulled Colorado State within a TD of the Utes and, like Utah, set a tone early. Though, unlike the Utes, the Rams just weren’t able to sustain it.