Utah isn't easy to kill. Cal's the latest team to learn as much, but the Bears somehow killed the Utes anyway.
Cal held a 28-23 lead on the Utes in the last 25 seconds of their game in Berkeley on Saturday. The Bears took a defensive pass interference penalty in their own end zone on a Utah fourth-down throw that fell incomplete, extending the game and giving the Utes a second chance for a winning touchdown on first-and-goal.
After the Bears stuffed running back Zack Moss' first try, Utah had seven seconds left, no timeouts, and second-and-goal from the Cal 1-yard line. Then Troy Williams threw incomplete on second down, after a rollout that looked like it'd set up an easy score. On third down with three seconds left, Moss got stuffed again, leaving the clock to run out, Cal at 3-2, and Utah at 4-1.
The Utes had seven snaps from inside Cal's 10-yard line. They didn't score. Against Cal.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was angry with the officials at the end of the game, seeming to argue that they'd charged his team with an unintended timeout before the Utes' last attempts to score. Having another timeout would've indeed been handy, but there was a bigger problem.
Utah lost because Utah couldn't score on a series of goal-to-go plays against the nation's 124th-ranked scoring defense. That's the crux of the matter, and it will sting for a good while.
Utah's made a living on escaping, but that luck ran out.
The Utes have put together a nice little start to the season. They've not played any marquee opponents to date, but they gutted out a thriller against USC last week and another one against BYU a few weeks before that. Both games could've been lost exceptionally easily, but they weren't. Utah converted on two fourth downs before striking a fatal blow against USC, and the win against BYU required a last-moment stop on a two-point conversion attempt.
Both of those wins were escapes of the sort that'd make Houdini proud. They almost pulled off a trifecta on Saturday, but it's not easy to win three games like this in a row. Utah, despite its best late efforts, couldn't do it.
No. 10 Washington is looking more like a Playoff contender than anyone else in the Pac-12, but the Utes had been in control of their own destiny until not coming through against Cal. Now they'll have to go from here.