The University of Utah had finally climbed out of the game-long hole it dug for itself Saturday night against the Boise State Broncos. The Utes led for the first time, by four points, and then they, well, . . .
. . . got smug?. . . got conservative?
Thirty-one to 28 on a 99-yard drive by the Broncos, a drive started by (what else?) a Ute penalty, before a crowd of 36,037. It broke a string of five straight Utah homecoming wins and was Utah's first loss in new Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"It was a four-point game, and we punted the ball down to their 1-yard line," said McBride. "I'll take my chances with any team in that situation. If they can go 99 yards in 1:45, they deserve to win the game."
. Having just gotten a lead, the Utes held Boise State, moved to the Bronco 29 and lost a yard on third down.
With 2:17 left and four points up, the Utes chose to take a delay-of-game penalty and punt rather than go for a 47-yard field goal that might have made it a seven-point lead with two minutes left. Freshman kicker Ryan Kaneshiro hadn't kicked one that long, but he hadn't missed one this season, either.
Chris Hunter's punt made the coaches look brilliant. For a moment. He pooched it, and Brian Bachhuber downed it on the Boise 1-yard line.
But guess what?
With the Broncos knee-deep in the north end zone with a new quarterback, senior Nate Sparks, the Utes encroached to put Boise State on the 6-yard line.
Given a little operating room, the Broncos threw a 34-yard sideline pass to Rodney Smith on their first actual play, then hit Smith for 11 on the second play. The Utes then stiffened and held Boise to fourth-and-4 at the Ute 43, but with rover Phil Glover suddenly out with one of a number of injuries, the Broncos went at his replacement, sophomore Wes Tufaga, with their tight end for a 12-yard play that got the first down.
They made another 19-yard pass play to Antwain Wilson, who'd scored the game's first touchdown, and that set up an 11-yard winning touchdown pass to Smith going to his left in the end zone against Teneil Ethridge for the winning play with :45, and Todd Belcastro added the kick that meant the Utes could only tie even if they got close enough for a field goal.
Utah didn't get close enough, though Daniel Jones made a fine leaping catch at about the BSU 18, but he came down with each foot landing squarely in the middle of the sideline out of play. He almost made a Hail Mary catch at about the 10 with about :03 left, but the ball was batted away by several Broncos.
The Broncos gained only 72 yards on the ground to 205 for Utah, but they passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns, Smith getting two. That and Utah's 81 yards worth of penalties (10 of them) were enough for their first win over an NCAA Division I-A team this season. Sophomore Bart Hendricks threw for 240 yards and three TDs and Sparks added 93 yards in the air on the final drive. Wilson had five receptions for 139 yards.
For Utah, Jonathan Crosswhite was 16-for-30 for three touchdowns, two to Donny Utu and one to Daniel Jones, and 195 yards with no interceptions. Utu had six catches for 65 yards, Jones five for 60 and Jerome Anderson three for 54. Mike Anderson rushed 19 times for 110 yards and a score, and Omar Bacon ran 15 times for 88 yards.
Having had nothing but bad vibes in third quarters all season, especially last week when it lost a 20-point lead in six third-quarter minutes, the Utes tried a new plan Saturday.
They got the miserable third quarter out of the way early in the first half.
Unfortunately, the Broncos, who led 17-14 at the half, played Utah score-for-score in the second half to come away with the upset victory.
The Utes spotted the Big West visitors a 14-0 lead and, early in the second quarter, following a slight resurgence to make it 14-7, committed a personal foul followed by (all together now) a false start, both in the offensive line, and then Jones dropped a sure TD pass on a third-and-30 play to give the Broncos the ball on their 35. (Yes, Jones was wearing gloves, but most receivers do.)
BSU was held to a punt, and, after a 34-yard Bacon run, Jones made up for his drop with a leaping touchdown grab in the right corner, allowing Kaneshiro to tie the game at 14.
However, the Ute third-quarter-in-the-first-half gremlins weren't done.
Utah (all together now) false-started on a punt, then got a personal foul for piling on after Richard Seals had sacked Hendricks. That foul was followed by pass interference and defensive holding as the Broncos wandered to the Ute 3.
Commensurate with Utah's generosity, the Broncos, 2-for-7 including a miss earlier, made their third field goal of the season from 21 yards for a 17-14 lead with :18 left in the half.
Boise had opened the game with an 80-yard drive, scoring on a 51-yard pass from starting QB Bart Hendricks to Wilson.