Despite committing two costly turnovers the Utes were in a position to get a W late in Tucson -- but problems surfaced early on -- continuing until the end when UA running back Ka-Deem Carey burst through Utah's front seven, untouched, for a 44-yard touchdown run.
This dagger in the Utes came the series after this -- when Utah linebacker Trevor Reilly just recovered a fumble caused by defensive tackle Tenny Palepoi with 6:28 left to play.
Palepoi stuck his helmet on the football Carey was toting as he tried to muscle his way off right tackle and into daylight.
Down 28-21, Utah had the ball on the Arizona 39-yard line -- and new life. Since Carey already gashed the Utes for almost 200 yards rushing at that point, Utah was ready for any sort of break.
Yet on that critical drive the Utes couldn't do anything with the football -- settling for a 44-yard field goal from Andy Phillips, Utah's midseason All-American kicker who had struggled for most of the night in the mild desert climate.
Yes, you heard right; Phillips -- the calm, cool, collected member of the U.S. Ski Team who glides down black diamond slopes in his spare time and had also never missed a kick in his collegiate career -- was off on his game Saturday, missing twice.
Arizona gave Utah opportunities to climb back into the game, however. On 4th Down and two to go the Wildcats -- who to that point had already rushed for over 200 yards -- opted to go for it. But the Utes defense stopped Carey cold, giving the ball back to Utah on downs.
The Utes then pulled a rabbit out of their hat, getting a 55-yard flea flicker TD from Adam Schulz -- who had replaced an injured Travis Wilson -- to Sean Fitzgerald.
The Utes were now ahead for the first time in the ballgame, 21-20, even though Utah had committed two costly turnovers. Prior to that quick score, the Utes pounced on an Arizona fumble at the Wildcats 17-yard line and Kelvin York bowled over three plays later to give the Utes life after being down 13.
The Utes had spent the entire third quarter getting back into a game that had Utah losing 20-7 at halftime. After a pep talk from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham the Utes came out and did to the Wildcats what was done to them in the first half; they forced turnovers.
But for all of the Utes' third quarter success there were drawbacks that would cost them the game -- and a chance to climb back into the Pac-12 South Division.
The Utes couldn't pass; Travis Wilson threw two early picks -- one for a pick six -- and was pulled due to an injury to his throwing hand just before halftime. He was 3-for-9 passing for 15 yards and two INT's at the time.
Utah also couldn't run the football if it wanted -- and starter Bubba Poole was knocked out of the game early with concussion symptoms -- and so with no running game they were forced to throw which didn't work out as well as hoped.
To make matters worse, an inept Arizona offense went off on the Utes stout, physical front seven like it was "role reversal week" and the Wildcats were the Utes when they played Stanford's physical front seven.
The Wildcats gashed the Utes for 300 rushing yards and another 168 in the air, including a critical TD toss from B.J. Denker to receiver Nate Phillips early in the fourth quarter.
It was Halloween come early for Utah -- and Christmas for Arizona, who honored former Wildcat and New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi on Homecoming night.
Here's how the Utes lost in the desert in more detail...
No running game
That running attack the Utes had last week in the win over Stanford was a thing of the past Saturday at Arizona. In between bouts of concussion-like symptoms Bubba Poole managed just 35 yards on 12 carries, a paltry 2.9 yards per carry.
No other running back was much better for Utah; Kelvin York got back into the lineup with Poole sitting out but even he had just 47 yards on 12 carries as well. (Lucky Radley got 57 yards on five carries, several of which came on end-arounds.)
Misdirection plays that had worked so well in the upset over Stanford had no effect on the Wildcats.
Other than that, Utah could do very little against this physical Wildcat 3-3-5 defense, an alignment the Utes saw for the first time this season on Saturday night. And without a running game, it affected another facet as well...
Lack of a throw game
The Utes also had no "throw game," as coach Kyle Whittingham refers to it. Travis Wilson was just 3-for-9 for just 15 yards two interceptions -- and that costly pick six -- before he was replaced by Adam Schulz, a smaller, less mobile version who did manage the game well but didn't lead the Utes to a victory.
Schulz did throw for 142 yards and 1 TD versus no interceptions -- but his mobility cost him dearly when the pocket collapsed. And, the height difference also seemed to hurt him as he forced the ball too hard into his receivers on his throws, especially in the fourth quarter.
The use of bubble screens and "split screens," which are slightly different from bubble screens but were just as effective against Stanford, were hardly used in Tucson.
Schulz completed 12 of 23 passes, which isn't horrible in terms of accuracy; it just won't beat good teams like Arizona. But even the throw game wasn't the culprit.
Kicker Andy Phillips
If you would have told me before the game that Andy Phillips would miss any field goals at Arizona, I would have thought you were crazy.
After all, the midseason All-America selection was 11-for-11 on field goal tries and letter perfect as well on his extra points. What's odd is that on both of his misses (from 40 and 44 yards, respectively) he had enough distance; he simply pushed the ball wide of the goal post.
On first glance, both of his misses looked good; it's just that the ball got too much backspin and dovetailed wide of its target. His misses cost the Utes six points, and his last one was the most costly.
Utah was down 28-24 late in the fourth quarter and couldn't do much on offense on this drive so they turned to Phillips to cut Arizona's lead to one.
From the Wildcat 23, the kick was snapped and it was right down the middle -- only to flutter to the left of the post. What an anticlimactic finish for Utah -- and even that wasn't the worst of the Utes problems.
Need I say anything more? The Arizona running back crushed Utah's hopes of a second straight conference win by running for 236 yards on a whopping 40 carries. That's 40 times that the Utes didn't get to touch the football -- minus the fumble Carey had, of course, in the fourth quarter.
Amazingly enough, he only had one touchdown but it was the 44-yard score that put the game out of reach. He is arguably the best running back in college football right now, and his talents were on display Saturday night in Tucson, in front of over 50,000 spectators.
What Arizona fans witnessed was one man who singlehandedly carried the weight of a football team to a win. Carey wasn't the only Wildcat to score a rushing touchdown, however.
Quarterback B.J. Denker had two himself, both on scrambles outside the pocket where he found plenty of daylight and the end zone, untouched. Denker finished with 62 yards on 13 carries. And that points the finger right at...
The Ute defense
For a unit that punched Stanford square in the jaw last week, holding the Cardinal's physical, balanced rushing attack to just 143 total yards, well under their season average, the Utes struggled mightily against Arizona's run game.
If you consider that going into Saturday's contest that Utah had allowed less than 1,000 yards for the entire season, you'd understand why Ute fans would be frustrated with Utah's defense allowing one-third of the year's output in one game.
The real problem, however -- outside of Ka'Deem Carey doing whatever he wanted to the Utes -- is that Utah continues to make arm tackles in the open field -- instead of securing the ball-handler with your body and driving into them, as most football players are taught from an early age.
You didn't see many arm tackles in the win over Stanford; you saw too many to count last night in Arizona. Carey is strong enough to break most arm tackles, as he showed on Saturday.
When Utah had success with Carey was when it was physical at the point of attack, and tackled him, driving through his 207-pound frame to bring him down. Doing that in the second half at times even caused him to fumble the ball -- which led to Utah's best opportunity to get back in the game.
On this night in Tucson, however, those opportunities Utah created were few and far between, particularly in the first half -- and now the 4-3 Utes must regroup for a game at reeling USC on Saturday afternoon.