EUGENE, Ore. — Snap, quackle, pop.
And just like that, Utah's hold on the nation's longest active winning streak has come to an end.
The 18th-ranked Utes were on the short end of a 31-24 decision to the Oregon Ducks. Saturday's setback at Autzen Stadium was their first loss since falling to BYU in November of 2007.
"We all wish this could have gone on for infinity," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "But it wasn't the case."
Whittingham, however, was pleased with the effort down the stretch. The Utes had their chances to extend their string of victories to 17.
"We're going through some growing pains right now as a team. That's evident. We're figuring out who we are in a lot of ways," Whittingham said. "But I'll tell you one thing, I'm proud as can be of this football team for hanging in there and finding a way to have a chance to win it at the end."
After trailing by 18 points midway through the third quarter, Utah battled back to make things interesting — cutting the deficit to four entering the final 18:46 of play.
"I was sure we'd find a way to win," Whittingham said. "But it wasn't to be. It wasn't our day. Credit to Oregon."
Utah's final five drives ended with a pair of punts, two interceptions and an expired clock.
During the Utes' drought, the Ducks added a 31-yard field goal by Morgan Flint to its lead. An earlier attempt to extend things was thwarted by a Robert Johnson interception in the end zone.
The Oregon defense later sealed the outcome with a key pick of its own — sealing the deal when free safety John Boyett intercepted a Terrance Cain pass on the Oregon 8 with 1:56 left to play.
"They made the play and we didn't," Whittingham said. "But the guts and toughness that our guys demonstrated to hang in there and continue to fight ... I'm very proud of them."
Statistically, though, it wasn't the best of games for Utah.
Cain completed just 20-of-41 passes for 178 yards. He was intercepted twice. Running back Matt Asiata, who saw limited reps in practice earlier in the week, was held to 54 yards on 15 carries.
Utah's special teams unit gave up a touchdown on a punt, and the Utes' defense allowed Oregon running back LaMichael James to rush for 152 yards.
"I made a lot of mistakes, our team made a lot of mistakes. It's early in the season and we've got time to correct them," said senior linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. "As a competitor, I hate to lose. It's a hard feeling for me. I hope I never feel this way again the rest of the season."
Oregon took a 7-0 lead before taking a single snap on offense. After forcing the Utes to punt after three plays, Walter Thurmond III returned the kick 78 yards for a touchdown.
Utah's ensuing possession also ended in frustration. Despite running 10 plays and taking nearly five minutes off the clock, the Utes wound up turning the ball over on a loss-on-downs on the Oregon 34.
Things brightened, however, when the Ducks' next drive ended with a punt. Utah was credited with a team block when Jackson Rice's kick caromed off one of his teammates and was deflected by Aiona Key of the Utes. It was recovered by Elijah Wesson on the Oregon 19.
Cain then covered the distance on a first-down run to set up Joe Phillips' PAT that tied the score at 7-7 with 6:34 to go in the first quarter.
An exchange of punts followed before Oregon regained the lead at 14-7. A 58-yard pass from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to Jeff Maehi set up a 3-yard touchdown run by James in the final minute of the quarter.
The Ducks wound up doubling their advantage before the half was complete. Masoli capped off a short drive by reaching the end zone on a 22-yard keeper.
Utah had an opportunity to respond just before halftime but failed to cash in despite reaching the Oregon 2 with two seconds to go. A pass from Cain to Reed on the final play was tipped away by Thurmond.
It capped an unproductive half by the Utes. They were 2-of-11 on third down and had just 136 yards on 44 plays. Utah was stopped twice on fourth down — on the Oregon 34 in the first quarter and on the Ducks' 31 in the second. The latter ended with a sack of Cain by Oregon middle linebacker Casey Matthews. It gave the Ducks a short field and led to their third touchdown.
Utah, meanwhile, didn't get a first down in the second quarter until the final 1:12.
The Utes were more efficient after intermission. Oregon was not. Two fumbles by Masoli and a failed fourth-down attempt helped Utah climb back into contention in the third quarter.
Utah's comeback bid began when Kenape Eliapo recovered a fumble on the Oregon 20 on the opening play of the second half. The Utes eventually closed the gap to 21-10 on a 22-yard field goal by Phillips.
Less than three minutes later, though, the Ducks retaliated by finishing a seven-play, 68-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by Masoli.
Trailing 28-10, Utah used a 17-second span of success to tighten things up.
A 22-yard scoring strike from Cain to Jereme Brooks opened the rally, and a 28-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Johnson followed.
"I just came up, picked it up and did what I was supposed to be doing and that's to try and score a touchdown," said Johnson, who scooped up the ball after linebacker Mike Wright jarred it away from Masoli. "It worked out for me. But it didn't work out good enough for the whole team."
The outburst made it 28-24 and it stayed that way until the dramatic finish — and the end of the line for Utah's lengthy winning streak.
"It's a foreign feeling. We haven't lost in a while," said senior offensive lineman Zane Beadles. "It's not a good feeling, I'll tell you that much."
The Utes (2-1) will attempt to start a new streak Saturday at home against Louisville.
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