This year's edition of the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas will be remembered largely for dropped passes, crucial penalties and missed opportunities.
But Boise State's defense also made an impression Wednesday, especially the Broncos' front seven, which spent much of the night in Utah's backfield.
The No. 10-ranked Broncos held the 20th-ranked Utes to 200 yards of offense in a 26-3 victory at Sam Boyd Stadium before a crowd of 41,923, the second largest in the bowl's history.
"I can't say enough about our defense," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. "It probably shouldn't have been that close, but Utah made some plays, but we also didn't make some plays that we normally can and should make."
Utah, which had won nine consecutive bowl games, never seriously threatened after the first quarter.
Kellen Moore, named the game's Most Valuable Player, completed 28 of 38 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns as the Broncos amassed 543 yards of offense.
His top target was Austin Pettis, who caught 12 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Doug Martin rushed for 147 yards, including an 84-yard sprint for a touchdown in the second quarter that gave Boise State (12-1) its first points and changed the game's momentum.
"It kind of broke our back," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
This game did more than crown a bowl champion. It also represented change.
The Utes (10-3) played their final game as a Mountain West Conference team before entering the expanded Pac-12, and it was Boise State's final game as a Western Athletic Conference member before joining the Mountain West.
Boise State had more tackles for loss (nine) than Utah had first downs (eight). Only Rose Bowl-bound Texas Christian, in a 47-7 victory, held the Utes to fewer yards (199).
Utah's Terrance Cain, filling in at quarterback for the injured Jordan Wynn, completed 10 of 24 passes for 93 yards and was sacked four times. Cain wasn't helped by a receiving corps that dropped one pass after another.
The Utes' offensive difficulties magnified their missed early chances. Utah's first four drives ended in Boise State territory but produced only a field goal.
"Without a doubt, I thought the missed opportunities would come back to haunt us, especially playing a team the caliber of Boise State," Whittingham said. "When playing a team like that, you better be able to capitalize on any opportunity that comes your way."
The Broncos' offense also had an off night.
One near touchdown for Boise State was fumbled through the end zone, and three drives stalled inside the 12-yard line, with two ending in field goals and another in a blocked kick.
Of course, this wasn't the ending that Boise State had envisioned. An overtime loss at UNR prevented the Broncos from playing in a Bowl Championship Series game.
"We didn't take care of business in one opportunity, and Nevada kind of deserved that victory," Moore said. "This is still a great team and one of the best teams in the country."
Utah wouldn't argue.
"It's not the way you want to leave the program," Utes senior center Zane Taylor said. "It's hard and it hurts. It hurts bad."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.