"Shoot," said Utah coach Greg Marsden. "It felt like a much better performance than last year and to finish in the same place is kind of disappointing."
The national title went to Alabama for a second year in a row as the Tide posted a 197.85. Florida was second (197.775), followed by UCLA (197.75), Stanford (197.5), Utah and Arkansas (196.3).
"We're all kinds of down right now," Utah senior Kyndal Robarts said. "To be fifth in the country is still a good thing, and when we get a chance to look back I don't think we'll be upset. But right now there isn't that feeling of excitement."
That the Utes felt they improved so much from a year ago but still finished in the same spot is indicative of the level of competition they faced.
The Utes were in the hunt after the first rotation thanks to an effort that tied their season best of 49.35 on the balance beam.
But they started falling behind after a bye when they went to the floor.
Little hops and steps on landings prevented the Utes from earning the big scores the other teams were posting on their events.
Marks of 9.85s might be nice scores in the regular season and in dual meets, but not at nationals, when the likes of UCLA, Alabama and Florida are putting up 9.9s and higher.
The difference wasn't so much in talent or skill level but in the way the other teams were planting their landings.
The UCLA, Florida and Alabama gymnasts looked like they were trees stuck straight up in the Georgia clay when they landed.
Utah, Arkansas and Stanford all swayed this way and that or had hops on landings.
Halfway through the meet, it was evident which three teams would settle the NCAA title after the Utes posted just 49.325 on the floor.
The biggest error on the floor for the Utes was a step-out by senior Stephanie McAllister. The normally reliable team leader earned just 9.725 as a result.
"You have a bent arm there, take a step here and it all adds up," McAllister said.
Unfortunately for the Utes, vault proved more of the same. The Utes, who hit a 49.525 in Friday's preliminary competition, couldn't pull off another big set. Tory Wilson had a 9.95 and Georgia Dabritz had a 9.9, but others were docked for steps here and there leading to a 49.4.
"We had a 49.4 and if you get the last two to stick, well, there it is," Marsden said. "That is what it takes in a competition like this, it's all about the stuck landings."
The Utes still had a chance to finish fourth going into the final rotation because they led Stanford 148.075-147.95.
The Cardinal, who lost to the Utes in the regular season and Pac-12 event, busted out a 49.55 on the vault.
The Utes, meanwhile, were finishing strong but couldn't match the high scores.
McAllister finished Utah's rotation with a nice routine, but landed a little sideways and took a step, earning a 9.9.
That routine seemed to symbolize Utah's run this year. It was good, at times it was great, but it was never super.
R In short • Utah's hopes of pulling off a surprise win at the NCAA Championships go by the wayside.
Key moment • After a solid start on the balance beam, the Utes go to floor after a bye and score just 49.325.
Super Six finish
1 • Alabama 197.85
2 • Florida 197.775
3 • UCLA 197.75
4 • Stanford 197.5
5 • Utah 197.375
6 • Arkansas 196.3
Utah's last 10 NCAA finishes
2012 • 5th
2011 • 5th
2010 • 6th
2009 • 3rd
2008 • 2nd
2007 • 2nd
2006 • 2nd
2005 • 3rd
2004 • 6th
2003 • 6th
Last 10 NCAA champions
2012 • Alabama
2011 • Alabama
2010 • UCLA
2009 • Georgia
2008 • Georgia
2007 • Georgia
2006 • Georgia
2005 • Georgia
2004 • UCLA
2003 • UCLA