LAS VEGAS — Lincoln Riley’s swift rebuild at USC was one of the most compelling stories in college football this season. The Trojans went from four-win fallen dynasty to 11-win championship contender in 12 months.
But Friday’s Pac-12 championship game proved that the instant gratification from a talented team of all-star transfers isn’t enough.
The No. 12 Utes (10-3) dashed No. 4 USC’s championship and College Football Playoff semifinal hopes with a 47-24 drubbing at Allegiant Stadium. Utah handed the Trojans (11-2) both of their losses this season and won its second consecutive Pac-12 championship against a team that many were ready to crown as a playoff team during Riley’s first season.
While stadium employees swept Utah’s red and white confetti from the field, the Ute celebration continued on social media.
“Money can’t buy that,” Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid wrote on Twitter with an emoji of a ring.
Kyle Whittingham, who began his Utah tenure in 2005 when Riley was still a student assistant under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, has coached the Utes to four Pac-12 championship appearances in the last five years.
“[They’ve] had a system in place, guys recruited for a long time, you see the continuity, how that’s built. You kind of feel that with the way their guys play,” Riley said. “You got to give ‘em credit. Part of when you get to kind of these moments in these big games is groups that have been there before. They certainly have. A lot of our team has not.”
Here are three takeaways from the game: