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Utah Utes football: Regret after dreadful bowl outing

Published: Tuesday, July 7 2015 12:51 p.m. MDT

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham looks on as his Utes are crushed by Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah coach Kyle Whittingham looks on as his Utes are crushed by Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

LAS VEGAS — Perhaps former Vegas icons Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley put it best in their renditions of "My Way."

"Regrets," they crooned. "I've had a few."

The Utah Utes can certainly relate.

Wednesday's 26-3 loss to 10th-ranked Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas was filled with missed opportunities.

Dropped balls, ill-timed penalties and an inability to put points on the board contributed mightily to the end of the 19th-ranked Utes' nine-game bowl winning streak.

"When you play a team like (Boise State), you better be able to capitalize on any opportunity that you can," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "And we just weren't able to do that."

Utah quarterback Terrance Cain sits on the bench as the Utes got crushed by Boise State on Wednesday. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah quarterback Terrance Cain sits on the bench as the Utes got crushed by Boise State on Wednesday. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

The Utes failed to hit the jackpot despite forcing four turnovers (three fumbles and an interception), blocking a field-goal attempt and recording a loss on downs.

"The hard part is that we're going to be plagued with questions of 'what if,' " said senior captain Zane Taylor.

Five of Utah's 14 drives began near midfield or inside Boise State territory. Four others started at the Ute 32-yard line or better.

The lone points, though, came late in the first quarter on a 44-yard field goal by Joe Phillips. The usually sure-fire kicker missed two shorter attempts in the game — adding to the disappointing performance by the Utes. They were just 2-of-13 on third-down conversions and wound up with only 200 yards of total offense, finishing with more penalties (10) than first downs (eight).

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham looks on as his Utes are crushed by Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah coach Kyle Whittingham looks on as his Utes are crushed by Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

"We just messed up ourselves — penalties, dropped balls and stuff like that," said wide receiver Shaky Smithson, who blamed himself for the setback.

Quarterback Terrance Cain didn't fare so well in place of injured starter Jordan Wynn. Cain completed just 10-of-24 passes for 93 yards and was sacked four times.

"There was a lot of drops. The numbers weren't as bad as at first glance," Whittingham said. "If you review the tape, I think he put the ball in some good spots at times and we just didn't convert."

Smithson and Eddie Wide were the only Utes with more than one reception. They finished with three apiece. Matt Asiata, Jereme Brooks, Luke Matthews and Tauni Vakapuna were the only others to make catches.

The lack of contributions stymied Utah's offense throughout the game.

On the other side of the ball, though, the Utes held their own for a while. They became the first team since UC Davis on Oct. 3, 2009, to hold the Broncos scoreless in the first quarter.

That effort, coupled with Phillips' field goal, allowed Utah to become the first team since Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 to hold a lead over Boise State in regulation. The streak covered a span of 675 minutes and 14 seconds.

"It was a tough game," said senior defensive end Christian Cox. "We played our little hearts out on defense."

The Utes, however, were unable to completely contain the Broncos' powerful offense. Quarterback Kellen Moore, a Heisman trophy finalist, wound up completing 28-of-38 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns.

Speedy running back Doug Martin rushed for 147 yards, including an 84-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that put Boise State ahead for good. Wide receiver Austin Pettis also added a score and finished with 12 catches for 147 yards.

"Tonight they were the better team," said Utah cornerback Lamar Chapman. "I don't take anything from them, they're a great team."

Linebacker Chaz Walker topped the Utes with 10 tackles, along with an interception and a forced fumble. Chapman finished with nine stops, including a rare sack on Moore.

The highlights failed to brighten up the sadness of having the program's bowl streak snapped. It dated back to 1999.

"We wanted to defend that, for sure. That was one of our big goals," Walker said. "But Boise State's a great team. They came out, fought hard and they made more plays than us."

The season-ending outcome left the Broncos with a 12-1 record, while the Utes finished 10-3 overall.

"We had good preparation coming into the game. Guys were focused in practice, working hard — just like the previous nine times we've been in this situation," Whittingham said of the bowl roll ending in a tie for the second-longest in NCAA history. "But (we) just weren't able to make the plays this particular year like we have in years past."

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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