SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – As if a last-second loss wasn’t tough enough, the Utah football team didn’t get home until late Sunday night after an almost 20-hour delay because of mechanical problems with its charter plane.

The Utes had to spend fours on the tarmac, before deplaning and falling asleep in the terminal.

“In my 30-plus years of coaching, it was the most nightmarish, ridiculous situation that I’ve ever come across,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. It was one thing after another. I feel bad for the players. You’re sitting on a bus, then sitting on a plane, and then sitting in a terminal. I felt bad for those guys.”

“It was frustrating for a little bit,” added tight end Brant Kuithe, who had 9 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. “Just sitting on the plane, going to the terminal, waking up, still bein in the terminal.”

“You can’t let it impact you,” said quarterback Cam Rising. “You’ve got to just keep working through it. It happened, and we’re here now and we’ve got to keep working.”

The Utah offense didn’t look grounded at all, amassing some 446 total yards. But two failed chances in the red zone was the difference in the game. First, Tavion Thomas was stopped on 4th and goal from the one yard line. Then on 2nd and goal from the 6-yard line with 17 seconds left, Rising was intercepted in the end zone.

“I thought the offense played exceptionally well with the one glaring exception of red zone production,” Whittingham said. “That’s a big exception. Had we been productive in the red zone, we win the game.”

While Thomas rushed for 115 yards of the Utes 230 yards on the ground, the Utah passing game generated just two plays of 20-plus yards, and both of those were to tight ends.

“They did a great job making sure there were staying deep,” Rising said. “They really just forced us to take the things underneath, and that’s why we really didn’t push the ball down the field too much.”

“We got to the red zone six times, and we only finished three times,” said running back Micah Bernard. “We’ve got to get down there and we’ve got to put it in.”

The Utes defense had a lot of trouble stopping the run. The Gators racked up 283 yards, very uncharacteristic of a Utah front seven.

“If you watch the tape, our run defense was just abysmal,” Whittingham said. “We gave up nearly 300 yards rushing. Sloppy is a word I keep going back to, because that’s what it was. Sloppy technique, sloppy fundamentals, slopping tackling.”

So after having their college football playoff hopes severely damaged, the Utes are keeping their heads high, having experienced one of the most hostile environments in all of college football.

“We have so much to build on,” Bernard said. “I think that after this week, you’re going to see a big improvement from the offense, the defense, everywhere.”

“We obviously wish it could have gone better,” Kuithe said. “But knowing the team that we have now, especially in the environment that we went and played in, we’re ready for anything.”

The Utes will try to get its first win of the year Saturday in its home opener against Southern Utah. Kickoff at Rice-Eccles Stadium is set for 11:30 a.m.