It was the defense.

That’s it. That’s the story. Utah’s defense was the problem child. The Utes scored well enough to win a high-profile football game against a good opponent. Quarterback Cameron Rising put up over 300 yards of offense and ran for a pair of scores, engineering an offense that nearly reached 500 yards on the day.

The problem was that UCLA’s offense actually reached 500 yards. Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed 19 of his 23 pass attempts for 299 yards and four scores. He ran for another score. He had an interception at the very end of the game that was otherwise meaningless, giving the Utes a 42-32 loss at the Rose Bowl instead of a 42-25 loss.

Coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game the Utes’ biggest issue was their inability to get off the field on defense.

Whittingham called a roughing the passer penalty in the third quarter a critical play, but he stopped short of saying it cost the Utes the game.

Rising punched the ball into the endzone with five minutes to play in the third and then converted the two-point play to pull Utah within a field goal, 21-18. It was a massive and necessary response to a Bruin touchdown on the previous possession.

Utah had some very real momentum. It then stuffed Zach Charbonnet on back-to-back runs to begin the Bruins’ next drive and set up a third-and-6. Thompson-Robinson’s pass fell incomplete and Utah looked like it would get the stop that had eluded it all game, but the drive was extended by a roughing the passer call on Karene Reid.

Thompson-Robinson hit Jake Bobo over the middle six plays later to put the Bruins up 10.

“Who knows how it would have turned out,” Whittingham said. “That one play didn’t cost us the game. I don’t want to paint that picture. But we had momentum. We had complete momentum there and had we got that stop and got the ball back and, coming off of a touchdown drive, you never know. But did that one play cost us the game? No, it never comes down to just one play.”

Instead it was a build-up of plays. Utah gave up 13 explosive plays (10-plus runs, 15-plus passes) and four plays of at least 40 yards to the Bruins. They’d allowed only two of those all season.

UCLA had a one-play kneel-down drive to end the first half and then another to end the game. Excluding those, the Bruins scored touchdowns on six of their final eight possessions after recording just one first down on the first two drives.

Utah’s defense won’t like the tape when it comes on Sunday.

“We just put bad ball on tape,” said Rising.

The Utes (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) face USC at home next Saturday.