It all caught up to Utah in the final 15 minutes.
Conventional wisdom suggests that a team without an offensive line and one devoid of a passing game is going to have trouble beating a nationally ranked football game. But for 45 minutes, the Utes bucked that theory, before a fourth quarter that produced 17 yards led to what may have been the most damaging loss of the season.
Arizona State rallied for a 20-19 win on Saturday afternoon before 45,183 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. What the crowd saw was an offense that couldn't produce a first down in the waning moments, leading to a tired defense, which led to a Sun Devils rally.
"That last series was on our offense," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We couldn't protect a 12-point fourth quarter lead and that was really disappointing."
It unraveled quickly. The Utes executed a game plan that called for a 2-1 run/pass ratio. Only two receivers Dres Anderson and Sean Fitzgerald caught passes. Sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson threw a pair of touchdown passes. But Wilson tossed interceptions on consecutive series with the game on the line. His last pick thrown straight into the waiting arms of 300-pound defensive tackle Will Sutton ended the game.
"Will Sutton, he was the player of the year and an All-American," ASU coach Todd Graham said. "But since I've been here, that's the biggest play I think he's made. That was a tremendous play."
Utah's offense looked completely different from what it was at the beginning of the season. Whittingham attributed that to an inept offensive line. He said that coaches have looked at film and analyzed what needs to be done and concluded that they need to run the ball more.
That was fine, until the Utes needed a few first downs that would've gone a long way toward salting the game away. But with ASU's defense stacking the box, Utah had little chance to run the ball in the final quarter. Stuffed runs led to punts, and Arizona State took advantage of an exhausted Utes defense when it mattered.
• Travis Wilson throws interceptions to kill the last two drives.
• Utah's offense gains 17 yards in the final 15 minutes.
• Utah's defense surrenders two fourth-quarter touchdowns.