SALT LAKE CITY — Justin Herbert and Darren Carrington were both on the field here again.
Unfortunately for Oregon’s starting quarterback, his former go-to wide receiver is out of eligibility and was just taking in the game as a fan — wearing a Utah sweatshirt.
Herbert, whose touchdown pass to Carrington with two seconds left delivered the Ducks' dramatic upset of the Utes here in 2016, was unable to recreate any last-minute magic at the two-year reunion.
Oregon lost its third consecutive road game with a 32-25 defeat to short-handed Utah on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 46,275 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Ducks (6-4, 3-4) fought back from 13-0 and 19-7 deficits to grab the lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn't hold off the Utes (7-3, 5-3), who lost starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and star running back Zack Moss to injuries in the past week.
“There’s no comfort in progress,” coach Mario Cristobal said after his team showed more fight than it did in the first half of the 34-20 loss at Washington State or at any point in the 44-15 debacle at Arizona. “We’ve got to find a way to start quicker on the road.”
Herbert completed eight passes to Dillon Mitchell for 169 yards and two touchdowns, but the Ducks’ dynamic duo were unable to get anything done on the offense’s final two drives.
Trailing 29-25, Herbert’s pass to Mitchell on fourth-and-5 at the Utah 45-yard line was broken up by cornerback Jaylon Brown.
“We put Jaylon Brown on him because he was doing some damage,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said of trying to defend the Pac-12’s leading receiver. “He made an incredible catch out of half, reaching behind him, against Julian Blackmon. Midway through the third quarter we put Jaylon on him, and it paid off for us.”
Matt Gay’s sixth field goal, a single-game Utah record, made it a seven-point game in the final minute to atone for a rare special teams gaffe by the Utes.
Time ran out on the Ducks’ comeback bid as the clock expired following Herbert’s 28-yard pass to Brenden Schooler over the middle.
“We’ve got a very motivated group of guys,” center Jake Hanson said of the mood in the visiting locker room. “Everybody’s upset — older guys to young guys, starters to backups. No one is going to give up or point any fingers.
“Everybody is going to look within and just know that they have to do more to get these wins.”
Oregon tight end Kano Dillon blocked a punt by Mitch Wishnowsky, which true freshman Adrian Jackson recovered at the Utah 3-yard line, to set up a wild finish.
Herbert threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Travis Dye on the next snap and completed the 2-point conversion to Jaylon Redd to give Oregon its first lead, 25-22, with 8:15 remaining.
“It was good to see us fight,” nose guard Jordon Scott said. “but good isn’t enough in the Pac-12.”
Brady Breeze was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the ensuing kickoff, a penalty Cristobal described as “senseless, just inexcusable,” and Thomas Graham drew a pass-interference call in the end zone to help set up a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jason Shelley as the Utes surges back ahead 29-25 with a five-play 60-yard drive in 1:27.
Shelley, a redshirt freshman, completed 18 of 31 passes for 262 yards in his first career start. Armand Shyne, who had 166 rushing yards this season, added 174 to his total subbing for Moss.
“They didn’t surprise us,” Graham said. “We knew what they were going to do. They were going to come out here and try to run the ball, and then off the runs take shots. They did exactly that, and we didn’t execute on certain plays.”
The Ducks scored the first 10 points of the third quarter as Herbert capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell and Adam Stack made a 34-yard field goal to get the visitors within 19-17.
“When we came out in the second half and we scored, and our defense started playing a little better, too. It goes hand in hand,” Hanson said. “Then we got the momentum a little bit after we scored. I think things were rolling. Just gotta finish, didn’t finish.”
Gay’s fifth field goal of the game, a 41-yard attempt, made the score 22-17 with 3:27 left in the third quarter. He made attempts of 35, 20, 21 and 55 yards in the first half.
“We wanted to get Matt Gay more field goals,” Shelley quipped about the Utes having several promising drives bog down in the red zone.
Oregon trailed 10-0 at the end of the first quarter after getting outgained 174-4 in total yards. At the point when Utah went ahead 13-0, the Ducks had been outscored 63-8 in the first halves of its last three road games.
Cristobal's team still had a pulse after Herbert, who started the game 0-for-5, started to heat up with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell. The junior quarterback, who finished 20-for-33 passing for 288 yards and three touchdowns, extended another drive with a 17-yard run on third-and-15 from his own 20-yard line, but Stack missed a 36-yard field goal.
Moments later, the crowd was roaring as Gay booted his deep three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Utes a 19-7 advantage at the intermission.
“We’ve got to wake up when we’re on the road and perform better,” linebacker Troy Dye said. “It’s unacceptable.”