Saturday's Top 25: No. 24 Utah routs No. 4 Oregon, ending Ducks’ CFP hopes

Peter Iacobelli
Associated Press

Salt Lake City – Britain Covey returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, giving Utah 14 points in 27 seconds and a 28-0 lead, and the No. 24 Utes ended No. 4 Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes with a 38-7 victory Saturday night.

Tavion Thomas ran for 94 yards and three touchdowns to help the Utes (8-3, 7-1 Pac-12) wrap up a share of the Pac-12 South title and a spot in the conference championship game. Utah has won four in a row.

Utah linebacker Nephi Sewell (1) tackles Oregon running back Travis Dye, left, in the second half during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Thomas has run for a Utah-record 17 touchdowns this season. The previous mark was 15, shared by Zack Moss and John White IV.

Cameron Rising threw for 178 yards. His top target, Brant Kuithe, piled up 118 yards on five catches for just the second 100-yard game of his career. Covey had 191 all-purpose yards.

Anthony Brown threw for 231 yards and a touchdown for Oregon (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12, No. 3 CFP). Oregon rushed for 63 yards and had 294 yards of offense.

On its only scoring drive of the first quarter, Utah ran the ball 11 times on 13 plays – culminating in a burst up the middle for 10 yards from Thomas.

Rising found a rhythm on Utah’s next scoring drive. He completed three straight passes to open the drive and capped it off by dancing across the goal line on a 1-yard run in the second quarter.

His biggest pass in the first half – a 49-yard catch and run by Kuithe – set up a 4-yard scoring run by Thomas that put Utah ahead 21-0 with 27 seconds left in the half.

The Utes forced another Oregon punt 16 seconds later, and Covey returned it for the TD to make it 28-0.

Oregon finally got on the board in the third quarter when Devon Williams reeled in a 36-yard catch. Utah ended any possibility of a comeback when Thomas sprinted 5 yards for his third touchdown. Jadon Redding tacked on a 26-yard field goal to put the Utes up 38-7 midway through the fourth quarter.

More Saturday results

(At) No. 2 Alabama 42, No. 21 Arkansas 35: Bryce Young passed for a school-record 559 yards and five touchdowns and Alabama beat Arkansas to clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

The Crimson Tide (10-1, 7-1, No. 2 CFP) won its 15th consecutive game against the Razorbacks (7-4, 3-4), thanks largely to the Young-to-Jameson Williams deep connection that continues to be the ultimate offensive bailout.

Alabama set up a date with No. 1 Georgia in Atlanta on Dec. 4 after a visit to rival Auburn.

This one wasn’t settled until Arkansas’s onside kick went out of bounds with 1:02 left.

The Razorbacks had stayed alive with Raheim Sanders’ 17-yard touchdown catch from K.J. Jefferson, but took nearly five minutes to get there.

►(At) Clemson 48, No. 13 Wake Forest 27: Kobe Pace ran for a career-high 191 yards and two touchdowns as Clemson won its 13th straight over No. 13 Wake Forest, delaying the Demon Deacons’ run to the ACC Atlantic title with a 48-27 victory Saturday.

Will Shipley gained 112 yards with two touchdowns and also threw a 2-yard jump pass TD to Davis Allen for the Tigers (8-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their 34th straight at home. Clemson also kept its hopes of a seventh straight trip to the ACC title game alive with the stunning rout of Wake Forest (9-2, 6-1).

The Demon Deacons entered the game averaging 44.7 points and 498 yards a game. They left with a season low in points and had only 36 yards rushing.

With time running out, chants of “Over-Rated,” rang out through Death Valley, where Wake Forest has not won since 1998. Fans filled the field at the end, the school reinstating its long-held tradition it first suspended in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Still, Wake Forest remains in the divisional driver’s seat and can make its first championship game appearance in 15 years by beating Boston College next Saturday.

For the Tigers to reach the title game, they would need Wake Forest to lose to BC and have No. 25 North Carolina lose one of its final two games.

Clemson, at last, looked the part of the ACC preseason favorite as it battered Wake Forest and quarterback Sam Hartman.

Hartman was sacked seven times and threw an interception. The Deacons also fumbled twice, both leading to Clemson touchdowns. Hartman finished with 312 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown with Wake trailing by 22 points.

Clemson, looking to redeem itself from a struggling season, came out on fire on both sides of the ball.

It’s ACC-leading defense sacked Hartman three times on Wake Forest’s first two possessions while the offense managed two lengthy drives to lead 10-0 less than nine minutes in as things began to look like most Wake Forest-Clemson games during the Tigers’ winning streak.

Clemson put things away in the third quarter on Pace’s 8-yard touchdown run and a 58-yard pass from D.J. Uiagalelei to Beaux Collins to take a 31-13 lead.

Uiagalelei hit 11 of 19 passes for 208 yards. Collins, Uiagalelei’s high-school teammate, had four catches for 137 yards.