Utah stumbles in 35-24 defeat at Arizona
Tucson, Ariz. • Well, there went that bit of momentum. The Utah Utes, who hoped to build on their stunning upset of Stanford against the Arizona Wildcats, instead suffered a disheartening loss Saturday, falling 35-24 to the Wildcats (4-2, 1-2) at Arizona Stadium.
The Utes have endured their share of defeats since joining the Pac-12, but Saturday's ranked right up there on the pain chart for several reasons.
A win would have gone a long ways in adding stock to Utah's upset of the Cardinal and put the Utes (4-3, 1-3) in great position to become bowl eligible.
It also looked like one of the more winnable contests for the Utes in the second half of their schedule, given Arizona's defensive struggles in league play and the Wildcats' reliance on the running game.
Blame it on the full moon that rose above Arizona Stadium or just sheer bad luck, but everything that should have played in Utah's favor went sideways for the Utes.
The Utes couldn't stop Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, quarterback Travis Wilson threw two interceptions before he went to the sidelines with an aching throwing hand, and running back James Poole was sidelined for much of the first half after taking a shot to the head.
Heck, even kicker Andy Phillips was off his game, missing a 42-yard attempt in the second quarter and a 40-yarder in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the Wildcats did what Stanford couldn't do and beat the Utes with a massive running game and solid defense.
"In this conference, you can't come out and not be ready to play," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We weren't ready to play in the first half. In the second half, we came out with some fire, did some good things. We fought our way back in the game and took the lead, but my final analysis of the game we didn't make enough plays to win the game."
Carey, who burned the Utes for 204 yards in last year's 34-24 Arizona win, did it again to the Utes on Saturday.
The junior finished with a school-record 40 carries for 236 yards and touchdown to lead the Wildcats to the win.
Earlier in the week, Utah's defenders vowed to stop the back after he embarrassed them last year. But it's hard to stop a guy you can barely touch.
Carey burned the Utes outside, he scampered up the middle and yes, he broke tackles like last year en route to his record-setting performance.
It was a humbling way for Utah's defense to lose, considering the Utes entered the game giving up just 133.7 yards on the ground.
"He doesn't stop," Trevor Reilly said. "You have to make sure you wrap and roll with him because he just does not go down. He's one of those backs that always leans forward and gets a couple more yards."
Utah's own offense struggled all night. First it was Wilson who suffered, throwing two interceptions before he was sidelined for good with an injured hand.
Backup Adam Schulz finished the night 12 of 23 for 142 yards, but couldn't craft a comeback.
Utah's last gasp came in the fourth quarter when Reilly recovered a fumble by Carey on Arizona's 39-yard line with 7:05 remaining and Arizona leading 28-24.
The Utes moved to Arizona's 23-yard line with a 10-yard pass from Schulz to Poole and two runs of three yards by Kelvin York, but the drive stalled there.
Rather than going for a first down on fourth-and-4, the Utes elected to try a field goal.
Phillips, who entered the game 4 of 4 from 40-yards and out this year, missed his second kick of the night.
Carey then put the capper on the game, scoring on a 44-yard touchdown run.
It was a disappointing finish for the Utes, who battled back from a 20-7 deficit to take a 21-20 lead in the third quarter behind a 1-yard touchdown run by York and a 55-yard flea flicker that resulted in a touchdown by receiver Sean Fitzgerald.
That play gave the Utes a 21-20 edge with nine minutes left in the third quarter. It would have gone down as one of the season's highlights if the Utes had been able to hold onto the win.
Instead it was Carey who stole the show in the end, handing the Utes a result they'd rather forget than remember.
"We have to be able to play on the road," Whittingham said. "To be a quality football team, you have to win on the road. We can't just win at home and not come through on the road."
Storylines Wildcat runs wild
R Ka'Deem Carey rushes for 236 yards as Arizona earns its first league win of the year.
• Utah recovers an Arizona fumble in the fourth quarter but can't convert, with kicker Andy Phillips missing a 40-yard field goal attempt.