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It's been a long time — now back to real life

TCU defensive back Quincy Butler, right, breaks up a pass intended for Utah receiver Derrek Richards. Butler broke up three passes.
TCU defensive back Quincy Butler, right, breaks up a pass intended for Utah receiver Derrek Richards. Butler broke up three passes.
Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News

FORT WORTH — So this is life in the post-Urban, sans-Alex era.

A 23-20 overtime loss to TCU. The end of a streak. Players weeping and holding their heads outside the locker room.

How long has it been since that happened?

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The University of Utah's long, exhilarating and wholly improbably run of wins ended at 18, Thursday night.

It all came crashing down on a third-down play at the Utah 4-yard line. Just like that, it was back to real life.

Eighteen games of steak and lobster.

Now for a more, um, modest diet.

"Like I said, nothing lasts forever," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "The win streak isn't going to go on into infinity."

Yeah, but they might have enjoyed at least one more night.

As the Utes move on with a 2-1 record (0-1 conference), this much is clear: No more rolling through the conference. It's gonna be work from here on. The season isn't over yet; it's too early for that. But starting conference play with a loss is like starting out a marriage in debt.

Stress on top of stress from Day 1.

"We're going to see," safety Eric Weddle said, "what this team's all about."

A loss to TCU — picked to finish sixth in the Mountain West Conference this year — wasn't exactly what they had in mind. It's true they said all along that things would be tough. They said that last year, too, as they were rolling up 30-point wins. This year, different story.

Suddenly next week's game against Air Force looks like a walk through fire.

Ditto for Colorado State, San Diego State and — believe it — even UNLV.

They don't even want to THINK about the last three: Wyoming, New Mexico and BYU.

Yet.

"I don't think a team in the Mountain West is going to go undefeated," Weddle said.

The Utes can only hope.

The loss halted what is generally considered the greatest period in Utah football history. Utah won every game, dating back to Oct. 25, 2003 (in other words, back when filling the gas tank wasn't a traumatic experience). It also ended a streak of 10 conference wins and 11 wins on national TV.

As the country songs say, Hello heartache.

There goes the national-ranking dream. Adios to the BCS bowls, as well.

It's not that the Utes or their fans were kidding themselves. It's just that, like the end of summer vacation, it came quickly and without mercy.

For much of Thursday's game, it seemed the Utes might hang onto their streak by the hairs of their chinny-chin-chins. It wasn't a great night for the Utes, but they looked as though they could manage.

Maybe they should have known trouble was brewing when at halftime — in an attempt to honor all the teams in the MWC — the TCU band played the fight song of each school. Unfortunately, someone got the order of the songs out of synch, and as the announcer introduced the Utah fight song, the band was playing BYU's "Rise and Shout."

D'Oh!

But that was only a minor annoyance. With the score tied in the fourth quarter, Utes took over at midfield with four minutes remaining.

No prize. They couldn't move the ball and were forced to punt. They got it back for a final drive with 1:07 remaining, but stalled at their own 46.

In the overtime, Utah logged a field goal for a 20-17 lead but couldn't avert Tye Gunn's scoring pass into flat to Michael DePriest.

Thus began the rest of the Utes' new and slightly disconcerting life. Their days of being recognized wherever they go could be waning. From here on, it's no longer "nationally ranked Utah" or "Fiesta Bowl champion Utah."

It's trying-to-make-a-name Utah.

Said quarterback Brian Johnson, "It's gonna be a dogfight the rest of the way in conference play."

Yeah.

All they have to figure out now is how to make sure they're in it.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com