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SALT LAKE CITY — Down by a goal late in the fourth period, the Utah lacrosse team failed to capitalize on several opportunities to score, falling to No. 17-ranked Air Force 9-8 Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Utah’s offense controlled the pace of the fourth period, but could not produce the looks on goal it needed to score and take the lead. The Utes trailed 8-7 with six minutes left and change to play when a stagnant offense turned the ball over on a shot that wasn’t close. The Falcons immediately scored on the other end, taking a two-goal lead into the final four minutes of the game.
Utah's Josh Stout scored to give his team a shot to tie the game with under two minutes, but it wasn’t enough. Coming out of a time out, the Utes were unable to make something happen on offense. Air Force’s stingy defense largely kept the Utes from running the set they had drawn up, sealing the defeat.
"We got a little selfish at times and didn’t move the ball like we usually do," Stout said. "I think we took good shots, but we didn’t keep playing till we got that great shot. We could have made one more pass, or just attacking instead of taking a 12-yard step down, maybe attacking out guys so we’re shooting at eight."
"We preach a team game," senior Jimmy Perkins said. "I think we’re playing our best offense when we’re just flowing the ball, moving the ball through X and getting our opportunities no matter who it is."
It is the second consecutive loss for Utah, which dropped last week’s game to then-No. 17 Lehigh, bringing the team’s record to 1-2 in the young season.
"Our level of execution has got to raise to another level," head coach Brian Holman said. "Our effort is there but our execution has got to get better."
Air Force struck first just over a minute into the game, but Utah’s Perkins answered with three goals of his own soon after. On the third goal, Perkins had the magic touch when a deflected shot on goal took a lucky roll to the back of the net to give the Utes a 3-1 lead.
It was all Utes for the rest of the first period. Following the first two minutes of the period in which Air Force was able to get to the net, the Utes defense sealed up the Falcons attack, and on the other side of the field dominated shots on goal seven to four. Mac Costin and Colin Burke each scored goals of their own to bring the Utes’ lead to 5-1 at the end of the period.
The Academy’s Quincy Peene was determined to pull his team back into the game in the second period, however, scoring two goals in a row. It lit a fuse for the Falcons, who outshot the Utes 20 to 3 in the second period, completely shifting the momentum once again. Suddenly, the Utes were the ones who couldn’t stop the bleeding, surrendering their lead heading into the half with the game all tied up at five.
"I think we just started beating ourselves, which is unfortunate," Stout said. "I think we lost that flow and got a little comfortable for a minute and then we just never really got back to that grit factor that we usually have."
Costin and Perkins gave Utah life as the second half got underway with a pair of goals to put the Utes ahead, but the third period wasn’t a one-sided affair like the first two were. Air Force responded with a pair of goals of its own to tie the game at seven heading into the fourth period, where the Falcons, who had knocked off No. 7 Duke earlier this season, showed they were the superior team.
Utah moves on to face Furman next Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 12 p.m. MST.