TUCSON, ARIZ. (AP)
Arizona botched a fake field goal and allowed two punts to be blocked. The defense couldn't stop an offense that struggled most of the season.
Nick Foles wasn't, well, Nick Foles for the second straight game.
Needing to win their final four games to become bowl eligible, the Wildcats fell flat.
Foles threw for 326 yards and a pair of touchdowns to David Douglas, but had two key interceptions in a 34-21 loss to Utah on Saturday that ended Arizona's postseason hopes.
''It's a tough situation that we're in right now,'' Arizona interim coach Tim Kish said. ''I know we have to work hard to keep the morale up because we do have three games to go, even if we've ruled out postseason play at this point.''
A projected first-round NFL draft pick, Foles has been one of the nation's most prolific passers over the past two seasons.
The past two games haven't gone quite the way he had hoped.
A week after throwing three interceptions in a loss to Washington, Foles made shaky throws and questionable decisions against Utah. He connected on 25 of 43 passes for 326 yards, but also had two key interceptions, including one in the end zone with Arizona (2-7, 1-6) at Utah's 2-yard line in the fourth quarter.
''You've got to play a full game,'' Foles said. ''I've got to know everything. That's what I expect of myself, but sometimes it doesn't work out. It hasn't really worked out the past two weeks.''
Utah (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) has been good on defense all season and did it again against one of the nation's best passing teams. The Utes got in Foles' face early and mixed up their coverages throughout the game to frustrate him.
Utah has one of the nation's best defenses, so that wasn't too much of a surprise, even against the high-flying Wildcats.
The nice part was the continuing evolution of Hays and the offense.
The Utes struggled offensively even before starting quarterback Jordan Wynn was injured and seemed to take a step back the first few games under Hays.
The junior threw seven interceptions in four games after replacing Wynn before finally putting together a solid game last week against Oregon State.
Hays may not have been spectacular against Arizona, but was solid, completing 12 of 21 passes while calmly directing Utah's offense for a second straight turnover-less game.
''He's more confident, he's making better decisions, he's not forcing the ball into coverage, just all those things you hope would happen in a maturation of a quarterback,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
The game figured to be a clash of strengths. Arizona has one of the nation's best passing offenses behind Foles, the nation's leader with over 32 completions per game.
Utah, despite its struggles in the Pac-12, has the nation's 22nd-ranked defense, allowing just over 325 yards per game, and is second in the conference in defensive scoring.
The advantage went to the Utes.
Utah sacked Foles twice in the first half and used pressure to generate its first interception. Matt Martinez got it with a diving grab at Arizona's 30-yard line, setting up White's 18-yard touchdown run that put Utah up 17-0.
Utah's special teams were good, sniffing out Arizona's fake field goal attempt in the first quarter, blocking two punts in the first half and getting good returns throughout the game.
Coleman Petersen hit a 32-yard field goal after Greg Bird got to Kyle Dugandzic's first punt of the game, but missed from 42 yards after another partially-blocked punt in the second quarter.
Utah's offense wasn't bad, either.
Arizona stacked the box to stop the run early in the game and Utah made them pay for it, using play-action to spring DeVonte Christopher for a 65-yard touchdown pass from Hays that put the Utes up 10-0 on the second play of the second quarter.
Hays also opened the second half with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Dunn after Arizona cornerback Lyle Brown slipped, putting the Utes up 27-7.
''Our receivers were burning off the line tonight; they are all playmakers and they created easy touchdowns,'' Hays said. ''We needed to take advantage of one-on-one matchups tonight and we did.''
Arizona's offense struggled before finally showing some life late in the second quarter, moving 73 yards in seven plays to set up Douglas' acrobatic 23-yard touchdown catch from Foles. Douglas made the catch over his shoulder while diving and barely got his foot in for the highlight-worthy score.
Foles hit Douglas again late in the third quarter, throwing on the run for a 42-yard touchdown that cut Utah's lead to 27-14. Douglas finished with 10 catches for a career-high 156 yards.
Foles again had the Wildcats driving midway through the fourth quarter, but a short fade pass in the end zone from the 2-yard line was picked off by Utah's Conroy Black, who returned it across midfield. White followed with an 11-yard score to put the game out of reach.
''It was obviously a huge blow,'' Douglas said of the final pick. ''We had a great drive up until then that went to waste. All you can do when a ball is intercepted is chase down the ball and hope you get another chance.''
The Wildcats did, but by then it was too late.
AP Story- Utah 34 Arizona 21
Ute Zone Top Stories
Three star WR talks visit plansTexas WR Cartrell Thomas is starting to set up official visits. Will Utah make the cut?
Scout FootballYesterday at 8:00 PM
Utes make big impression on Texas wideoutAfter visiting Salt Lake City, three-star wide receiver Tyquez Hampton took some time to talk to UteZone about his thoughts on the Utes.
Ute ZoneTuesday at 4:18 PM
Shah, Jr. relishes the family legacyFor linebacker Sharrieff Shah, Jr., the opportunity to carry on a legacy was too much to pass up.
Ute ZoneMonday at 11:41 PM
Film Room: Utah vs. USCUteZone breaks down the biggest plays in Utah's win over USC.
Ute ZoneMonday at 11:16 PM
UteZone Roundtable: 9/25The UteZone staff talks about Utah's big win over USC, what we've seen from the Utes so far this year and what to expect against Cal.
Ute ZoneSunday at 8:50 PM