DAN GREENSPAN / Associated Press
For the second time in less than a year, Utah manager Kyle Whittingham is trying to help his players deal with the loss of a teammate.
Whittingham hopes the Utes can find some solace on the field in Southern California on Saturday, their first game since certainty that Aaron Lowe was killed in a shootout at a post-game party.
“This is exactly the feeling that the Leadership Council said the best path to healing, and the best way to get through it together, is to do what you love again and one of the main reasons you are here” said Whittingham. “That brings back a bit of normalcy, but at the same time you never forget it. But it’s only therapy in and of itself, you could say you’re going back to the field. “
Lowe was shot dead on September 26, hours after Utah defeated Washington state and, nine months after running back, Ty Jordan died in an accidental shooting on Christmas night, 2020.
Lowe and Jordan were friends and high school teammates in Mesquite, Texas. Lowe switched his jersey number to Jordan’s No. 22 that season and was the first to receive a memorial scholarship in Jordan’s honor.
“I mean, it’s kind of all rolled into one now, so it has been without a doubt the most challenging year of my coaching career,” said Whittingham.
Freshman cornerback Clark Phillips III said Utah (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) are hoping to use the rest of this season to honor Lowe. The Utes are one of only three teams without a conference loss, along with No. 22 Arizona State in Pac-12 South and Oregon State in the north, so a division crown or conference title, and the Rose Bowl in particular, is still in the game are when they can win at USC (3-2, 2-2) for the first time since 1916.
“As a team, we’re trying to use this to move forward and get closer,” said Phillips. “Now we just realize that life is not promised. Love those you can love. “
Utah will charter a flight Monday to attend Lowe’s funeral in Texas. Whittingham said attendance will not be mandatory, but it will be for all players, coaches and team staff who choose to travel to Texas.
USC hasn’t won straight games this season, but the Trojans have lost consecutive home games despite being double-digit favorites against Stanford and Oregon State. “I don’t think anyone should come into your own house and wreak havoc, and you should do that yourself, so it’s definitely a point being made this week,” said wide receiver Drake London.
Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, who sustained an injury to USC at the end of the 2020 season, has recharged the offensive since replacing Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer in a triple loss to the state of San Diego. Rising is 32 of 55 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns since taking over, but his best quality is avoiding mistakes. Rising didn’t flip the ball and was only released once.
EYE SEE YOU
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis delivered the best performance of his junior season in a 37:14 win in Colorado, throwing 276 yards and three touchdowns without interception. He continued his strong relationship with London, which had nine receptions for 130 yards and one touchdown and also involved the formidable freshman tight end Michael Trigg with his first touchdown catch. “Right now, I like what I see of Kedon,” said USC interim coach Donte Williams. “The look in his eyes right here, the eyes never lie and the look in his eyes is really good now.”