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Kragthorpe: Not all his fault, but Cain's saddled with Utah's streak-ending loss

Published December 23, 2010 7:46 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Las Vegas

The curious college career of Terrance Cain ended Wednesday night, when he suffered his first defeat as Utah's starting quarterback in 15 months.

Then again, this was his first start against a decent football team in exactly that long.

Utah's 26-3 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl meant Cain would leave the school with a 9-2 record, still one of the best winning percentages for any quarterback in Ute history.

His signature victory? Uh, let's just write off that category as "not applicable."

As daunting as this whole assignment was, filling in for the injured Jordan Wynn, the meeting with Boise State gave Cain one last chance to do something truly meaningful as the Ute QB. He failed to deliver, which was not entirely his fault — except for losing two fumbles.

Nobody could say Cain played terribly, just not nearly well enough to produce a monumental, career-defining achievement.

"He struggled," was coach Kyle Whittingham's initial review, softened by his citing a bunch of dropped passes.

The Broncos are very good, which serves as only partial defense of the Utes. One of these teams belonged somewhere beyond Las Vegas in the bowl strata, and it was not Utah.

The Utes were overwhelmed at Sam Boyd Stadium, lucky to stay close for a while by forcing turnovers, while never sustaining much offensively.

"We didn't click," Cain said. "We didn't make anything happen. … The offense never got into a rhythm."

In the end, Cain was more of a sympathetic figure than anything. When his perfect pass to Jereme Brooks for a would-be touchdown was nullified by center Zane Taylor's holding penalty in the third quarter, Cain just walked around with his hands on his hips, rolling his head back in disappointment.

"As a quarterback, I mean, you get frustrated … but you've just got to let it go," Cain said.

Certainly, it hurt that Cain did not receive much help. Two long completions to Brooks were called back and Shaky Smithson and Brooks each dropped a potential scoring pass. Without much of a running game, Cain continually found himself in third-and-impossible dilemmas, while the Broncos pressured him.

Cain often escaped trouble, but was sacked four times and completed only 10 of 24 passes for 93 yards. The Utes' 200 total yards represented half of their season average.

"It was just us hurting ourselves," Taylor said.

Cain's ledger as a Ute starter shows wins over Utah State, San Jose State, Louisville, Colorado State, UNLV, Air Force and Wyoming (with Wynn's help) last season and UNLV and New Mexico this year. Nothing special about that list. Cain returned to Las Vegas to conclude his career, but he was not facing the local team, unfortunately.

UNLV is not to be confused with Boise State.

His defeats hardly were disgraceful. Oregon, last season's Rose Bowl runner-up, and the 12-1 Broncos are the only teams that beat him.

Yet Cain's place in Ute history will include his being charged with the loss that ended the school's nine-game bowl winning streak. During that run, quarterbacks Darnell Arceneaux, Lance Rice, Alex Smith, Brett Ratliff, Brian Johnson and Wynn each did at least once what Cain could not do in his only opportunity.

"We had a great season," Cain said, "but the last game is what counts."

Back to you, Jordan.

How much difference would Wynn have made Wednesday? Not enough, certainly. So a 10-win Ute season comes with three defeats by a total of 101-13. On anybody's scorecard, Cain can get only part of the blame for that.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.comTwitter: @tribkurt