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Los Angeles

The Utah Utes patiently waited years and years for a chance like this. And then they hurried too much, spoiling everything.

After finally moving into position to force overtime against USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum, having wasted one fourth-quarter possession after another, the Utes chose to try a tying field goal with 11 seconds left in their first conference game as genuine Pac-12 members Saturday night.

Nothing wrong with that — except the Utes acted as if the clock was ticking, not stopped.

They hustled the field-goal team onto the field, snapped the ball and had Coleman Petersen kick it, as fast as possible.

Blocked. Game over. End of story.

Actually, there's more to tell about that bizarre sequence, including the part about USC having points taken off the scoreboard for a penalty during the return for a touchdown — and later restored. Yet this ultimately is all that matters: USC 23, Utah 14.

So this game ended with a special-teams failure, concluding a night when the Ute defense merited a better outcome but the offense simply did not do its part with previous opportunities in the fourth quarter.

"The defense played good and gave us plenty of chances," said Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, "but we just didn't take advantage of them."

Overall, the Utes did a lot of things awfully well in their Pac-12 debut. The defense forced three takeaways and shut out the Trojans after the opening drive of the second half. DeVonte Christopher caught 11 passes, as Utah reintroduced the wide receiver into the offensive scheme. And the Utes never crumbled.

"They hung in there and kept going, from start to finish," said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham.

They just should have caught their breath, in the end. Choosing to kick a 41-yarder right then and there was not the issue. The problem was how the Utes went about it. "We should have taken a little more time," Whittingham said. "There was no reason to rush."

Whether the breakdown was in the protection or just a poor kick — "about head high," by Whittingham's account — it was a failure.

Well, forgive the Utes for panicking. This was their fifth possession of the fourth quarter, all while trailing by three points, and they finally found themselves in scoring position. A replay reversal gave them a fourth-down conversion on a pass to Christopher and a pass-interference penalty moved the ball to the USC 24, giving the Utes their chance to tie.

Yet if the last play will haunt them, about 10 months after a field-goal block saved them over BYU, the Utes' real story is the offense's struggles in the fourth quarter.

While trailing by three points, Utah ran 20 plays in the final period and gained 30 yards. Continually pressured, Wynn completed 4 of 14 passes and was sacked twice. "We were moving up and down the field essentially the whole game," Wynn said.

Not anymore. The third quarter had ended promisingly, with a completion to Dres Anderson giving the Utes a first down at the USC 41. After a penalty and a sack stopped that drive and the next three possessions basically went nowhere, the Utes took over at their 33 with 1:01 remaining.

That last shot was "something you wish for," Wynn said. He delivered nice passes to Anderson and Christopher, but the Utes came just close enough to end up even more disappointed.

"There's no happiness in a win — I mean, a loss," Wynn said afterward, his words unwittingly capturing the Utes' wishful thinking about how it all turned out.