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Utah football: Why playing at Autzen fulfills dream for Ute players

Growing up in Southern California, Utah running back Micah Bernard wasn’t a fan of either USC or UCLA.

“I was an Oregon fan back in the day,” he said. 

Bernard loved watching former Ducks players like LaMichael James, De’Anthony Thomas and Kenyon Varner when he was a kid. 

While most of the people around him followed the Trojans or the Bruins, Bernard marched to the beat of his own drum. 

“Back then I didn’t look at college football like that,” he said, talking about the USC-UCLA rivalry. “I was an Oregon fan. The colors, the team, the guys they had.”

On Saturday, Bernard will make his first visit to Eugene and Autzen Stadium when the Utes take on the Ducks as the two programs battle for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game in Las Vegas on Dec. 2. 

What does it mean to him to be able to play there? 

“It’s going to be a lot. I’ve always wanted to visit that stadium and be there in person to witness a game there and be able to go there for the first time and actually playing in that game is going to be a great feeling,” he said. “I grew up watching them on TV, seeing the stadium for so long, it’s going to be amazing to walk through and see what it’s like.”

Oregon had won 23 consecutive games at home before falling to Washington last week. 

Utah wide receiver Devaughn Vele also enjoyed watching Oregon when he was younger. 

“This will be my first time (at Autzen Stadium),” he said. “I’m excited. I’ve heard it’s loud. That’s all I’ve heard. It’s very loud. Back in high school, I loved watching Oregon, especially when (2014 Heisman Trophy winner) Marcus Mariota played.

“Being of Polynesian descent, I loved watching him. I always wanted to play there one of these days, either for them or against them. Right now, I’m playing against them and I’m excited for it.”

Left tackle Braeden Daniels also said he’s “very excited” for the chance to play at Autzen Stadium for the first time. 

“They’re saying it’s going to be louder than it was at The Swamp,” Daniels said, referring to the Utes’ season-opening loss at Florida in September. 

“We do a great job here preparing for the loud noise. The Swamp was loud but it gets to a point where you can’t hear anything. Loud is loud.” 

Coach Kyle Whittingham has taken his teams to Autzen Stadium. The Utes lost to the Ducks there in their last visit in 2017. 

“It’s going to be a tough environment,” he said. “Autzen Stadium is a difficult place to play, one of the loudest places in the country. We’ve got to handle the crucible that is Autzen Stadium. That’s just what it is.”

Utes on the air

No. 10 Utah (8-2, 6-1)

at No. 12 Oregon (8-2, 6-1)

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MST

Autzen Stadium


Radio: ESPN 700

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