No. 11 Utah lost to No. 6 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl on Saturday — a record-breaking, back-and-forth affair that ultimately saw the Buckeyes kick a last-second field goal to win 48-45.
Ohio State was largely unstoppable on offense as quarterback C.J. Stroud (37-of-46 passing, 573 yards, six touchdowns) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (15 receptions, 347 yards, three touchdowns) lit up the Utes’ secondary. But Utah coach Kyle Whittingham certainly didn’t aid his team’s effort; he refused to use any of his three timeouts as the Buckeyes drove into field goal range with time winding down.
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Utah managed to tie the game 45-45 with 1:54 remaining — plenty of time for Stroud and Smith-Njigba to further dice up the Utes’ defense. The Buckeyes took over at their 42 with 1:47 remaining following a 33-yard kickoff return. They were methodical on the drive, never facing a third down and moving into field goal range — Utah’s 23 — with 59 seconds remaining.
It was at that time Utah fans and neutral college football observers alike wondered why Whittingham refused to call his timeouts — or let the Buckeyes score a touchdown — to preserve time for a last-minute comeback. The most egregious example of time mismanagement came after running back TreVeyon Henderson ran for 9 yards and a first down to the Utah 2. Whittingham allowed roughly 14 seconds to tick off the clock, prompting Ohio State to call its final timeout with 12 seconds remaining in regulation.
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The Buckeyes kicked a field goal on the ensuing play, leaving nine seconds and three timeouts for Utah’s final drive. That drive never happened, though, as return man Britain Covey — who returned a kickoff for a touchdown earlier in the game — managed only a 9-yard return that ended the game before the offense could return to the field.
When asked after the game about his strategy, Whittingham simply said he would have used his timeouts had Utah been able to get Ohio State behind the chains. Per KSL.com’s Josh Furlong:
Whittingham said they would have used the timeout if they got them behind the chains. He didn’t want to help them out, but Utah couldn’t stop them.
— Josh Furlong (@JFurKSL) January 2, 2022
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Whittingham’s late-game clock management will be the focus of Utah’s loss, but the Utes played admirably against Ohio State, which was without multiple starters, including a few who opted out of the game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Utah quarterback Cameron Risner was injured late in the fourth quarter, forcing freshman Bryson Barnes to step in to lead the team while it was down by seven points.
Barnes ultimately was too efficient on the Utes’ final drive. He marched them 57 yards in six plays and 2:20 of game time. He completed both his passes on the drive, including a 15-yard touchdown strike to junior tight end Dalton Kincaid for the game-tying score. Utah simply left too much time on the clock.