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The home schedule of Utah's greatest season in Pac-12 history ended in the cold, dark and rain of a November afternoon, with Rice-Eccles Stadium practically empty and Ute coach Kyle Whittingham walking onto the field, personally preventing his offense from running another play.

There's no way the Utes could undo in 60 minutes all the good they've done this year, but they sure tried. Their 42-10 loss to Arizona came too late in the season to cost Whittingham a new contract or keep the Utes out of a bowl game, but the perception of the program took a major hit.

How could this happen? Clearly, this was Utah's biggest home-field letdown since the 2011 regular-season finale against Colorado, while playing for a berth in the Pac-12 championship game. The effect of this loss is more difficult to gauge, but it's sure not beneficial.

Never mind that in August, anyone would have taken a 7-4 record and a 4-4 conference mark at this stage. With representatives of the prestigious Alamo and Holiday Bowls watching, the Utes played themselves into a lower-tier destination. They're also likely to lose their Top 25 status.

His face covered with eye black and a black beard, Ute senior safety Brian Blechen spoke of his pride in the program's turnaround in 2014, but this performance "definitely tarnishes it," he said.

Without prompting, Whittingham cited the penalty that nullified Kaelin Clay's punt-return touchdown late in the third quarter, when the Utes trailed 21-10. But that was his only defense of Utah's effort.

That observation came right after he summarized, "Got outcoached, got outplayed," in the classic Belichickian style — or perhaps channeling the late Fred Whittingham Sr., known for being blunt and terse.

Whittingham was beaten and bitter, pointing out how his offense gave up more points (14) than it scored.

Weird trend: For three seasons, the day after Cary Whittingham's Timpview team won a state championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, his older brother's Utes have lost.

Ute quarterback Travis Wilson liked his offense's preparation, which would not explain five three-and-out sequences in the first six possessions. Whittingham also wouldn't acknowledge emotional issues at the start, noting how the Utes were within 7-0 deep into the second quarter.

The reality is the defense already was giving up big yardage totals — ultimately, 298 rushing yards and 520 total yards. In the fourth quarter, Arizona scored three touchdowns in less than two minutes. Nick Wilson ran for scores of 75 and 19 yards on consecutive offensive plays for the Wildcats, with an interception of Wilson's final pass of the game in between. And then redshirt freshman Conner Manning's interception was returned for a punctuating touchdown.

Maybe the Utes were due for a downer after an emotion-filled Pac-12 schedule against so many ranked opponents. But not on Senior Day, right? Blechen, Nate Orchard and other seniors deserve a better memory of this season, and so do the fans who endured some miserable conditions.

The Utes have a chance to rewrite the ending of 2014 at Colorado and in a bowl game. Yet there's no masking the offensive issues that will linger into 2015 or excusing the defense for Saturday's effort, while being asked to do so much this season.

All anyone is left with is this ending: Ute reserve Troy McCormick ran 14 yards for a first down, then the clock stopped and started again as the offensive players looked to the sideline for the next play.

No signal was coming. Whittingham walked 10 yards onto the field, with his palms turned upward in a gesture that suggested, what's the use?

That's the not the way Ute fans should remember this season, but it's certainly how things stood as of Saturday. Twitter: @tribkurt

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