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Berkeley, Calif.

Somewhere the leather-skinned, buzzard-tough, bloody -knuckled, bust-you-in-the-chops-and-laugh-at-your-pain guys are crying, the Buddy Ryans, the Bud Grants, the Chuck Nolls, and the Fred Whittinghams.

Fred's son — Kyle Whittingham — channeled those coaches on Saturday against high-flying Cal, utilizing a sound, old-school game plan, a plan that could have worked, would have worked, should have worked, but …

"Just came up one play short at the end," Whittingham said.

The numbers on the board stood as angry testament: Cal 28, Utah 23.

Whittingham's Utes tried to beat the most prolific quarterback in college football the only way they could. They tried to beat Davis Webb, the kid who directs the Bears' newfangled, whiz-bang offense, an attack that averaged nearly 600 yards a game coming in, preferring to run 90-plus plays, moving as though the team bus always is double-parked, the meter whirring. Not only does the Cal offense go fast, it just goes.

And it went on this occasion — but not like it typically does. That was precisely what Whittingham planned on and for. He planned on holding on for dear life on defense — which the Utes did — and owning the clock on offense — which the Utes also did.

All told, Utah possessed the ball for 42:01, to Cal's 17:59. Utah ran 97 plays and gained 442 yards, Cal ran a mere 49 plays for 362 yards, nearly half of what it usually totals. Utah outgained Cal 176 yards to 56 on the ground and hung with the Bears through the air, passing for 266 yards to Cal's 306. Utah picked up 30 first downs, Cal got 17.

Which is to say, the game went the way the Utes wanted it to go.

"Exactly," Whittingham said. Except for … well, you know, those most important numbers.

So, what's it like to play a Pac-12 road game, execute what you want, do what you want, play like you want … and still lose?

"It's frustrating," Whittingham said. "It's a tough one to lose. … If you had said, 'You're going to hold these guys to 28 points,' I would have said we're going to win the game. The guys followed the plan to a T."

According to the past, all the Utes had to do to win was keep Cal under 50 points. That's the total the Bears had scored in their two earlier wins, and everything short of that had been a loss.

It was the kind of bar Whittingham, despite his respect for what Sonny Dykes has created, would have snarled at, been insulted to have not met.

He met it — and got an "L" for his effort.

Utah troubled Webb, giving up big plays, but not unexpected ones. The Utes knew he would go deep — "That's what he does," Whittingham said — which he did again here with 40- and 24-yard touchdown passes to Chad Hansen and 39-and 56-yard yard scoring throws to Demetris Robertson.

But, overall, they limited Webb, considering his past numbers, as he completed 22 of 35 passes with one INT.

Conversely, the Utes took the ball and held onto it for what seemed like forever — with Armand Shyne running for 99 yards and two touchdowns and Zack Moss getting 66 yards and one TD. At the end, it was Moss who was called on to make all the good things that had happened, against the bad, finally pay off on the scoreboard. But that's when the Utes fell 1 yard short.

Everybody knows what happened: With Utah down five, three seconds left on the clock, from the Cal 1-yard line, Moss simply could not get into the end zone.

"We were confident we'd be able to push it in there," said Shyne, the running back who some thought should have gotten the ball on that final play. The Utes had a previous chance to score from the same distance, but couldn't complete a pass, leaving them with the Moss attempt.

And a whole lot of heartbreak.

Whittingham, though, was encouraged, and told his players that, and the old-school guys, wherever they are, would have thought and said the same.

"I'm proud of our guys," Whittingham said. "Our guys have got fight. They're warriors and I love coaching them. …. There's a ton of football left. This is a setback, but not a dream-killer."

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on the Zone Sports Network, 97.5 FM and 1280 AM. Twitter: @GordonMonson.