5 Thoughts On The Las Vegas Bowl

5 Thoughts and what's next for the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Dec. 20 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
Utah 45, Colorado State 10
And You Care Because …Utah scored the first 14 points and the final 24 points of a wire-to-wire demolition of Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl. QB Travis Wilson got the Utes into the end zone on the game’s first drive, rushing for his first of three touchdowns on the afternoon. RB Devontae Booker chipped in with 162 rushing yards and a long score in the second quarter, as Utah owned the line of scrimmage throughout. The Rams closed to within 21-10 just before halftime, but were blanked over the final two quarters, 24-0, and never threatened down the stretch.
What Else? Utah trucked Colorado State at the point of attack, rushing for 359 yards and five touchdowns on 48 carries.
- For the first time since Sept. 27, Ram WR Rashard Higgins, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, was held below 140 receiving yards. He had seven catches for 109 yards, but wasn’t a major factor and didn’t reach the end zone.
- Ute QB Travis Wilson accounted for 249 yards and four touchdowns. He perforated the Colorado State defense for 91 yards and three scores on the ground on zone read option plays.
- For just the second time in 2014, Colorado State QB Garrett Grayson was held without a touchdown pass. He completed 20-of-34 for 227 yards and an interception.
Game Rating: C-

1. Every coach ought to approach the postseason the way Kyle Whittingham does each December and January. Sure, the Las Vegas Bowl was a reward for the Utes, which delivered an important rebound year in 2014. But for Whittingham, the finale provides an important chance to amass a tailwind that can be carried into next season. And his kids always treat bowl games with the utmost importance and seriousness, which goes a long way toward explaining why the coach is now 8-1 in bowls after Utah tricked Colorado State. You can have fun in these events, enjoy the sights and partake in the revelry. But if your kids aren’t focused on the business of winning a football game, you’re going to miss an opportunity to that doesn’t come around every winter. Few coaches maximize the postseason better than Whittingham.

2. E-mail Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFB

Congratulations to Utah on a dominant performance in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. Now go out and ratchet up recruiting to take the next step in the Pac-12. It’s one thing to be the Kansas State of the west and beat teams by playing sound football and limiting mistakes, but it’s another thing to hang with the big boys that have athleticism to burn. The Utes can get wins consistently against teams like Colorado State and a whole host of others in the lower division out west, but they joined the Pac-12 to raise expectations and become a big-time player in the college football world. So what kind of program does Utah want to be? It’s time to build on this performance by cashing in on the recruiting trail and building towards bigger things in Salt Lake City. Aim for Oregon, and nothing less. Start as of … yesterday.

3. If this was Dave Baldwin’s audition to be the successor to Jim McElwain at Colorado State, he might as well start packing boxes and cleaning out his desk shortly after returning to Fort Collins. The Rams were dominated in every phase of the game by Utah, a stark contrast to the team’s 12 games of the regular season. If you’re going to beat the Utes, you better be prepared to win the line of scrimmage. But Colorado State didn’t have a prayer at Sam Boyd Stadium, yielding well over 300 yards on the ground, and failing to keep QB Garrett Grayson off his back. This was as lopsided an outcome as we might witness all postseason, and a harrowing start to life after McElwain at CSU.

4. What’s next for Colorado State
Losing head coach Jim McElwain hurts after all he started to build, but the potential is there for a loaded team returning led by RB Dee Hart and WR Rashard Higgins – among the best RB-WR combos returning for 2015. The top six rushers return, while Higgins leads a loaded receiving corps that loses Charles Lovett but gets everyone else back. The line has an issue on the left side losing Ty Sambrailo at tackle and Mason Myers at guard, but the other three starters are back. Oh yeah … quarterback. Nick Stevens will get the first look with Garrett Grayson gone after his magnificent season.

Leading tackles Aaron Davis and Max Morgan are gone from the linebacking corps, but the line should be a positive with here starters returning. Corner Bernard Blake is finished, but the other three starters return in the secondary including hitting machine, Kevin Pierre-Louis. PK Jared Roberts will be tough to replace, but P Hayden Hunt is back.

5. What’s next for Utah
A lot depends on whether or not RB Devontae Booker is thinking about an early shot at the NFL. Assuming he’s back, watch out. QB Travis Wilson should get plenty of time to operate behind a line that gets all five starters back. Losing the most dangerous target – Kaelin Clay – will be tough, and three of the top four receivers are gone, but Kenneth Scott led the team in catches and can make big things happen on the outside.

A few defensive replacements need to be made, but for the most part the key pieces are in place, starting with the linebacking tandem of Jared Norris and, if he’s back and healthy after getting knocked out for the year with a foot injury, Gionni Paul. Pass rushing terror Nate Orchard is finished, but everyone else who came up with a sack returns except for Sese Ianu – he came up with one. Three starters return to a secondary that should be fantastic with time. The kicking game will be outstanding with P Tom Hackett and PK Andy Phillips both back.


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