LAS VEGAS — So much for the upset. So much for the streak.
The nation's longest active bowl run was snapped Wednesday when 10th-ranked Boise State blasted the 20th-ranked Utah Utes, 26-3 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
"In order to win a football game like this we had to be opportunistic," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "We had to make plays and we were unable to do that."
Utah entered the game with nine consecutive bowl victories, a streak that matched the second-longest string of success in NCAA history.
"It's disappointing, not just for me but for everyone who has been in this program the last 11 years," said senior center Zane Taylor. "It's not the way you want to end your career. It's not the way you want to leave the program. It's hard and it hurts. It hurts bad."
The Utes (10-3) wound up with more penalties (10) than first downs (eight) and were unable to prevail despite forcing four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception), blocking a kick and holding the Broncos (12-1) to a loss on downs.
"It was one of them nights. They played better than us tonight," said senior cornerback Lamar Chapman. "We missed a lot of opportunities that we could have capitalized on."
Utah's offense managed just 200 yards as senior quarterback Terrance Cain, starting in place of the inured Jordan Wynn, was just 10-of-24 passing for 93 yards. He was sacked four times and several receivers dropped passes.
Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, by comparison, was named the game's Most Valuable Player. The Heisman Trophy finalist was 28-of-38 for 339 yards and two touchdowns. The Broncos converted on third down eight times. Utah did so just twice.
"When you play a team the caliber of Boise State you've got to be much better than we were tonight," Whittingham said. "And that's the bottom line."
Trailing 3-0 after fielding a punt in the second quarter, Boise State needed just one play to take the lead. An 84-yard touchdown run by Doug Martin, the longest in Las Vegas Bowl history, put the Broncos on top with 8:39 remaining in the half.
Whittingham said the play kind of broke his team's back. Utah's coaching staff mulled over a fake punt beforehand but opted not to because the defense was playing well.
The score, which was followed by a PAT from Kyle Brotzman, came after five ineffective drives by Boise State.
It also ushered in a run of two consecutive point-producing series. A 28-yard field goal by Brotzman gave the Broncos a 10-3 advantage.
The lead swelled to 16-3 by halftime thanks to a 25-yard touchdown pass from Moore to wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker with 18 seconds left in the second quarter. A two-point conversion attempt failed.
Utah's defense made a statement early when cornerback Lamar Chapman sacked Moore, forcing a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Neli A'asa on the Boise State 20-yard line. The sack was just the eighth allowed by the Broncos in 836 plays this season. They entered the game ranked third in the nation in fewest sacks allowed.
The Utes, though, failed to capitalize on the breakthrough. They came up empty when a 39-yard field goal attempt by Joe Phillips was wide left.
Utah's second offensive drive also ended poorly. Cain fumbled when sacked by cornerback Jamar Taylor and the ball was recovered by defensive tackle Chase Baker on the Boise State 34.
Missed opportunities were plentiful for the Utes in the decisive first half.
After forcing a loss on downs when Brotzman dropped a fourth-down pass on the ensuing possession, Utah's offense sputtered and the Utes were forced to punt the ball back.
Another chance, however, soon followed.
Linebacker Chaz Walker put an end to the Broncos' next drive with an interception. He returned Moore's sixth pick of the season 24 yards to the Boise State 32.
Utah, however, wound up settling for a 44-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 56 seconds to go in the first quarter.
The momentum carried over into Boise State's next possession when Walker forced a fumble by receiver Kyle Efaw and linebacker Chad Manis recovered it on the Ute 27.
This time, though, Utah's offense failed to take advantage of the situation. The first of three straight drives ending in punts ushered in a sequence of three consecutive scores by Boise State.
An exchange of turnovers opened the third quarter — Utah lost the ball on a fumble by Shaky Smithson and Boise State on a strip by safety Brian Blechen on a 46-yard pass from Moore to Austin Pettis that left the end zone — continuing the wild night of miscues.
The duo made amends the next time the Broncos got the ball, teaming on an 18-yard scoring strike. Brotzman followed with the extra point to make it 23-3 with 8:18 to go in the third quarter.
Boise State had a chance to extend the lead a few minutes later, but a 27-yard field-goal attempt by Brotzman was blocked by Walker and returned to midfield.
A holding call later nullified a 31-yard touchdown pass from Cain to Jereme Brooks and Utah wound up empty handed when Phillips was wide right on a 36-yard kick early in the fourth quarter.
Before the game was complete, Boise State added a 21-yard field goal by Brotzman.
Utah's bowl roll comes to an end
The Utes' run of nine consecutive bowl wins came to an end with Wednesday's 26-3 loss to Boise State in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Utah's streak matched USC (1923-45) for the second longest in history, trailing only Florida State's run of 11 from 1985-96.
Year. . .Bowl. . .Opponent. . .Outcome
1999 Las Vegas Fresno State Won, 17-16
2001 Las Vegas USC Won, 10-6
2003 Liberty Southern Miss Won, 17-0
2005* Fiesta Pittsburgh Won, 35-7
2005 Emerald Georgia Tech Won, 38-10
2006 Armed Forces Tulsa Won, 25-13
2007 Poinsettia Navy Won, 35-32217 comments on this story
2009* Sugar Alabama Won, 31-17
2009 Poinsettia California Won, 37-27
*Games played in January