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The worst loss of the 2014 Utah football season was...

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Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Utes lost only four games, the fewest since Utah joined the Pac-12 conference. Despite these losses, the Utes still managed their most successful season in recent years, finishing the season in the top-25 and posting their first winning Pac-12 record. Still, looking back, the Utes finished one win shy of a 10-win season, and with an extra win would have finished in the top half of the PAC-12 south. Looking back through the losses, which was the most disappointing?

Date Opponent Score
9/27 Washington St. 27-28
11/1 @ Arizona State 16-19
11/8 Oregon 27-51
11/22 Arizona 10-42

All four losses were difficult for different reasons. The Arizona State game was a tough loss due to the fact that Utah has yet to beat them since joining the Pac-12, and the Utes were able to take them into double overtime at Sun Devil stadium before coming up just short. The Oregon loss stands out because the Utes came out poised to take a two touchdown lead to start the second quarter, before Kaelin Clay's mishap at the goal line. The Arizona loss was a terrible loss, because of the way the Utes were bullied at home and because it was both Ute Proud day and Senior day. The Wildcats abused the Utes using their freshman quarterback Anu Soloman to expose an over pursuing Utah defensive line. The 32-point loss was the biggest margin of defeat for the Utes and was a demoralizing way for the Utah seniors to leave their last game on Rice-Eccles field. As bad as the loss to Arizona felt, the Washington State loss goes down as the worst loss of the season for Utah.

The Washington State game came after three straight wins to begin the season and immediately following a big Utah win in the Big House in Ann Arbor Michigan. The game was at Rice-Eccles where the Utes had thrashed both Idaho State and Fresno State prior in the season. Washington State's only victory at that point was against FCS school Portland State and to add to the Cougars troubles, the weather was terrible with driving wind and rain. It seemed all advantages were tilted Utah's way, as Washington State relied on throwing the ball to generate any offense.

The game started off as well as any Ute fan could hope for. With 10:08 remaining in the first quarter, Eric Rowe intercepted a Connor Halliday pass deep in Cougar territory and took it back 11 yards for a touchdown giving the Utes a quick 7-0 lead.

The following drive, the Utes held the Cougars to a quick 3-and-out before WSU punted to Kaelin Clay on fourth down. The result was Clay's fourth return for a touchdown and his second punt return for a touchdown in consecutive games. The Utes were now up 14-0, still early in the first quarter. Rice-Eccles was rocking and it seemed like the flood gates were about to open on the Cougars.

With just over six minutes left in the first quarter Devontae Booker took a handoff, weaved his way past the line of scrimmage and scampered 76 yards for a touchdown appearing to break the game wide open for Utah. The Utes had looked dominant up to this point in the game. Nothing had been going Washington State's way, Connor Halliday looked out of rhythm and the weather showed no signs of letting up. Utah fans everywhere began to chalk this one up as a win.

In the second quarter the Utes started to come back to earth a little bit. Halliday was able to put together a 9-play, 71 yard drive to get the Cougars on the board with a 35 yard touchdown strike to Cougar receiver Dom Williams. The ensuing drive for the Utes ended with Andy Phillips missing on a 46- yard field goal attempt. Phillips would redeem himself just before half, nailing the same kick he had just missed, a 46 yarder to send the Utes into halftime with a 17-point lead 24-7.

The third quarter came and went, but it was apparent the momentum was beginning to shift Washington State's way. Halliday began stringing together longer drives, including one that resulted in another touchdown for the Cougars when he found Vincent Mayle to cut the lead to 10. Utah couldn't seem to get anything going offensively and with the fourth quarter approaching, a tiny seed of doubt began to form for the Utes.

If the Utes' 21-point first quarter was a dream for Utah fans, the fourth quarter was a nightmare. The Utes were able to get the lead back to 13 points with another Andy Phillips field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter to make the score 27-14. But those would be the last points for Utah that night.

Halliday started the quarter off for the Cougars, engineering a 12-play, 75 yard touchdown drive to pull within six points of the Utes. After that it was a quick three-and-out for the Utes as they punted back to Washington State with 6:21 remaining.

Tom Hackett was able to pin the Cougars back at their own 8 yard line. In order to preserve the win all Utah had to do was keep the Cougars out of the end zone. The Utes had managed to limit the big play all night, forcing the Cougars to put together long scoring drives. If they could manage one more stop, the Utes would begin the season 4-0.

Washington State employed their signature strategy of throwing for the win. The Ute defense held up alright on the first two plays of the drive, forcing an incompletion and allowing a 7-yard reception underneath. With 3rd and 3 to go, Halliday found River Cracraft for a 4 yard reception, just enough to get the first down for the Cougars. The very next play with perhaps the Utah defense feeling a bit of a letdown, Halliday hit a streaking Vincent Mayle for an 81-yard bomb to give the Cougars the first lead of the night 28-27.

The Utes had two more chances to get within field goal range, but the Cougar defense was ready for the challenge. Cougar defensive back Charleston White would twice end drives for the Utes in the final minutes, breaking up passes intended for Dres Anderson. Ute fans and players alike were stunned by Washington State's improbable comeback.

The Washington State loss gets the nod as the worst loss of the season because of the way Utah let the game slip out of their hands. It was a home game against a struggling team, in conditions that were detrimental to the visiting team. Despite these factors, Utah let a 21-point lead slip through their fingers and allowed a game they should have won to get away. Arizona State, Arizona, and Oregon were all considered better teams than Utah last year, and though those losses were tough to swallow, the Washington State game is the only game of the four that Utah should have won and let get away. Looking back at the season there is no question the Washington State loss stands out as the most disappointing defeat of 2014.