Utes crumble to conclude their season, losing 38-10 to Texas in the Alamo Bowl

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Texas Longhorns defensive back B.J. Foster (25) and defensive lineman Malcolm Roach (32) pile on Utah Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) for a quarterback sack in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019.

San Antonio • Once again, Utah got the ending doubly wrong.

The Utes' 38-10 loss to Texas in Tuesday night's Alamo Bowl hardly was the response they promised after falling to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Utah's proud postseason football history absorbed another big hit from the Longhorns, whose overwhelming performance led Ute quarterback Tyler Huntley to say his team's approach resembled “more of a vacation than really preparing for a game. That really came to bite us in the butt.”

The No. 12 Utes (11-3) have lost consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1992 and '93 and will tumble in the final rankings, to be published Jan. 14. They're stuck in the trap that has made losers of the Pac-12 title game go 0-9 in their subsequent bowls.

And this pair of losses is more discouraging to the Utes than last year's finish, considering they went into December with an 11-1 record and No. 5 ranking.

This episode in front of 60,147 fans (mostly wearing burnt orange) at the Alamodome was even worse from start to finish than Utah's loss to Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl last December. In that case, a third-quarter meltdown came after a strong first half.

“The seniors put in so much time in this program and whenever you're not able to go out there and finish it for them, it's just a failure,” said sophomore linebacker Devin Lloyd.

Utah's performance Tuesday looked a lot like its showing in a 37-15 loss to Oregon for the conference championship. The Utes were “not ourselves” in those games, as coach Kyle Whittingham said, or maybe they were just exposed by good opponents, as he later tried to explain.

Any rationalization is unsatisfying, considering how good the Utes once appeared to be.

The Ute coaches and players liked this matchup, because it gave them the potential cachet of beating a brand-name opponent. As it turned out, Texas underachieved this season and is loaded with talent. Utah sure helped the Longhorns create that impression, anyway.

The result was an across-the-board failure in every phase of Utah's game. Texas (8-5) allowed 48 points to lowly Kansas and 37 to TCU. The Longhorns held the Utes to 254 total yards and kept the Utes from scoring for the game's first 40 minutes. Utah's offensive line couldn't deal with Texas' aggressive defensive scheme, much less exploit it.

“We didn't handle their pressure like we should have,” Whittingham said.

Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai recorded three sacks and six tackles for loss, earning the defensive MVP award. Utah's Zack Moss picked up 26 of his 57 yards on one run, while being otherwise contained.

Moss received the Alamo Bowl's annual Fred Jacoby Sportsmanship Award, but the Longhorns took all of the in-game hardware back to their campus in Austin.


• Utah’s offense goes scoreless in the first 40 minutes of a 38-10 loss to Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

• The Utes lose consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1992 and ’93.

• Utah’s defense allows 30-plus points in each of the team’s three losses this season.

Short-yardage issues have bothered the Ute offense all season, and that problem surfaced on a third-and-2 play on Utah’s opening drive of the game and on a fourth-and-1 attempt to begin the second half. In each case, Huntley kept the ball and was tackled for a loss.

The Utes also missed a chance for a big play in the first quarter when running back Devonta'e Henry-Cole was open along the sideline and dropped a pass.

Defensively, the Utes extended a trend of giving up 30-plus points in each of the team's three losses. A makeshift secondary that was missing safety Julian Blackmon and cornerback Jaylon Johnson had a busted coverage of Texas' first play of the game. The Utes were more sound after that, but Texas receiver Devin Duvernay repeatedly made tough catches against Ute nickel back Javelin Guidry.

Ute defensive end Bradlee Anae was credited with the half-sack he needed to break the school's career record with 30 in four years, but the Utes gave up 438 total yards.

Utah's special-teams play also was a letdown. Having allowed only 33 yards on punt returns all season, the Utes gave up a 71-yard runback by D'Shawn Jamison, leading to Texas' first touchdown.

Whittingham defended his team's overall 2019 performance, writing off the finish as “a disappointing ending to a very good season.” He did acknowledge his staff's being outcoached by a Texas group that was working without two incoming coordinators, after coach Tom Herman's shakeup this month.

“I can't say enough about the leadership in the locker room, but also the staff and how professional they were in preparing these guys for this type of bowl game,” Herman said.

The Longhorns have won their bowl game in each of Herman's three seasons. This year, there was an argument that they didn't deserve to be the Big 12's top pick for the Alamo Bowl after the New Year's Six selections. But they certainly justified their invitation, with their fans celebrating as balloons fell from the Alamodome ceiling during the trophy presentation.

The Utes trailed 10-0 at halftime, failing to score in the first half for a second straight game after having trailed Oregon 20-0. Utah also had gone scoreless in the second half of the 31-20 loss to Northwestern on New Year's Eve.

The Utes didn't score until the last five minutes of the third quarter Tuesday, when Jadon Redding kicked a 32-yard field goal. Utah scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard pass from Huntley to Demari Simpkins. .

That play got the Utes within 24-10, but Texas responded with quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s third touchdown pass of the night. Ehlinger passed for 201 yards and ran for 73 yards and a score and was named the offensive MVP.