FORT WORTH — Ribbit. And just like that, Utah's 18-game winning streak and a handful of other consecutive successes are history.
A 23-20 overtime loss to TCU on a warm, muggy night at Amon G. Carter Stadium put an end to all that in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
"Nothing lasts forever," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "The win streak wasn't to go on for infinity, obviously."
Late heroics by the Horned Frogs, who opened the season with a win at highly touted Oklahoma before a surprising loss at SMU, sent the Utes to their first defeat since a 47-35 loss on Oct. 25, 2003.
"It was a heckuva run," Whittingham said. "We had our chances tonight, but give TCU credit. Their defense played well and their offense did just enough to get the victory."
Utah's overtime woes began with losing the coinflip. Forced to go first in a format where both teams get possession at the opponent's 25, the Utes wound up settling for a 34-yard field goal by Dan Beardall.
TCU's offense then took its turn. Three consecutive runs by Robert Merrill moved the Horned Frogs to the Utah 4. The Utes then stopped Cory Rodgers for no gain before quarterback Tye Gunn's touchdown pass to a wide open Michael DePriest for the game-winning score.
"We found a way to make a play. I knew we had a chance. It seemed like the longer the game was going to go, the Texas humidity was going to help us," said TCU coach Gary Patterson. "We got a couple of good plays and we got the ball down first and goal. Michael DePriest made a great play."
Whittingham said the pick route was a great call by the Horned Frogs. Safety Eric Weddle claimed little could be done stopping it unless a penalty flag is thrown.
"A tough way to lose," said Utah quarterback Brian Johnson. "We've got to be poised and bounce back."
Utah plays host to Air Force next Thursday. Whittingham said his team will work hard to get back to their winning ways.
The Utes took a 17-7 lead with 10:10 remaining in the third quarter when Johnson scored on a keeper from one-yard out. They reached the end zone after marching 48 yards on 10 plays, including a 15-yard pass from Johnson to Brent Casteel on third-and-11 to set up the score.
TCU, however, came storming back.
It took the Horned Frogs exactly two minutes to respond. That's when Merrill took a pitch and ran four yards for a touchdown to make it 17-14.
The momentum shift continued when Utah was flagged for a personal foul on a punt, giving TCU the ball on its own 37. The Horned Frogs eventually capitalized on the field position. Chris Manfredini's 30-yard field goal late in the third quarter proved to be the final score in regulation as defense prevailed down the stretch. The Utes crossed into TCU territory twice in the fourth quarter but was forced to punt both times.
"They did a nice job defensively," Johnson said. "We had a chance to make plays, we just didn't."
Utah led by three at halftime.
After an exchange of punts, the Utes scored their first opening quarter points of the season. A five-yard touchdown run by Quinton Ganther capped a seven-play, 70-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions. The most crucial of which was 45-yard pass from Johnson to Brian Hernandez that preceded the score.
Trailing 7-0, TCU pulled even on the first play of the second quarter when Merrill ran three yards up the middle for a touchdown. The Frogs took possession when Johnson threw his first interception of the season. Marvin White picked off a pass intended for Travis LaTendresse and return it 12 yards to the TCU 38. Using a quick huddle for much of the series, it took the Frogs less than two minutes to run seven plays.
In stark contrast, the Utes used a lot of time on the ensuing drive. They milked 6:34 off the clock en route to regaining the lead at 10-7 on a 39-yard field goal by Beardall.
The 15-play sequence covered just 32 yards and featured two fourth-down conversions. Johnson kept the drive alive both times with runs. He also completed a 15-yard pass to Madsen on a third-and-10 situation early on.
Heavy rain fell a couple of hours before kickoff, leaving the turf wet and conditions warm and muggy throughout the game.