The Utah Utes’ attempt at a fake punt in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to Arizona went the way of the rest of the season. It looked pretty on paper, but the execution was uglier.
With the game tied 24-24, the Utes tried for a fake punt on fourth-and-6 from their own 39-yard line.
Punter Sean Sellwood’s pass to Mike Honeycutt was complete, but 4 yards short of the first down.
On the ensuing drive Arizona scored with an 18-yard pass from Matt Scott to Austin Hill for the go-ahead touchdown.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the play was designed well and that “it was there.”
“The throw was just behind our guy,” he said. “When he had to adjust back to catch the ball, that allowed the defender to catch back up, otherwise he was running for a lot of yards. It is what it is. That’s football. You make some of those plays. You don’t make some of them.”
Suffice it to say, in 2012 the Utes haven’t made enough plays.
The Utes lost their hopes of maintaining their bowl streak with Saturday’s 34-24 loss to the Wildcats, which makes Friday’s season finale an odd benchmark for Utah.
Last year, the Utes could have ended up in the Pac-12 title game if they had beaten the Buffaloes. This year the Utes vowed to not let such chances pass them by as they believed they could contend for a league title.
Instead, they are playing for little more than a win to end their 0-5 road mark this year.
“That’s obviously what our intentions were this game was to try and keep our bowl hopes alive,” Whittingham said. “That was a driving force going into the game. But it’s not going to happen. So we have to regroup and keep recruiting hard. That’s really the name of the game. We have to keep recruiting — and get ourselves better.”
Certainly this is not the position the Utes had imagined they would be in when the season began.
As Utah defensive end Trevor Reilly said, the Utes can point to any number of reasons as to why they are in the position they are in, “But at the end of the day, we just didn’t get the job done.”
The Utes had their chances against the Wildcats and led the high-powered team 24-17 going into the final quarter.
Playing at home and just 15 minutes away from an upset, the Utes couldn’t have asked for a better scenario.
Unfortunately for them, the defense that had played reasonably well all night couldn’t get the job done.
Arizona tied the game with an 11-play, 75-yard drive, then scored again following the failed fake punt attempt.
The Utes had one last chance when they got the ball back with 5:59 on their own 7-yard line, but couldn’t advance past their own 27-yard line.
Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey finished with 204 yards on 26 carries and had runs of 13 and 14 yards in the Wildcats’ long scoring drive.
“He is a heck of a player,” Reilly said of Carey. “He is the leading rusher in the Pac-12, and we didn’t do well enough. The defensive ends didn’t play well enough. That’s basically it.”
The Utes’ bright spots were a 112-rushing effort by John White and improved play by quarterback Travis Wilson, who didn’t throw an interception for the first time since he assumed the starting role and finished 28-for-40 for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
It was hard though for the Utes to feel good about anything Saturday with their bowl hopes dashed.
“Tough to see the seniors not come away with a win in their last game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but they played hard,” Whittingham said. “Everyone played hard. We didn’t capitalize on some opportunities.”
Utah at Colorado
P Friday, 1 p.m.
TV • FX