STANFORD, California — The sting of Stanford's disappointing season is starting to simmer.
In the wake of a wrenching 20-17 double-overtime loss to No. 25 Utah on Saturday night, a player could be heard giving his teammates a profanity-laced speech in the Cardinal's locker room while coach David Shaw was speaking to reporters.
That player? Seldom-used safety John Flacco, the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. The senior is well respected among teammates because of how hard he works despite receiving little playing time, but they had never heard him speak with so much passion.
"It was a heck of a speech," senior linebacker James Vaughters said, relaying the message. "We've got to fight to do better every week. It's not about bowl games. It's about paying respect to this game."
Unfortunately for Stanford, words will not be enough to save its season.
The Cardinal (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) dropped consecutive games for the first time since October 2009. They had been 10-0 following a loss under Shaw, and suddenly the two-time defending conference champions have bigger concerns.
Stanford needs to win one of its final two games on the road — at improved California and No. 14 UCLA — just to become bowl-eligible. The Cardinal haven't missed a bowl game since Jim Harbaugh's second year as coach in 2008.
It's a surprising predicament for a program that began the season as the only one in the country to reach a BCS bowl each of the last four years. Now Stanford's accomplished seniors, who played their last home game, are just trying to earn a chance to play a much-less memorable December game.
"I'm sad for those guys but also proud of them," Shaw said.
Kaelin Clay, whose careless goal-line fumble swayed the momentum in a loss to Oregon last weekend, caught a 25-yard TD pass on a wheel route on the first play of overtime before the Cardinal came back with the tying score.
Jordan Williamson kicked a career-long 51-yard field goal — the same distance Shaw passed up late in the fourth quarter — to start the second session, setting the stage for the Utes' dramatic finish.
Wilson, who regained the starting quarterback job after Kendal Thompson's season-ending knee injury against Oregon, found Scott on a slant route on third-and-1. Scott jumped up, lifted his arms in the air and was swarmed by teammates streaming into the end zone.
The Utes (7-3, 4-3) improved to 2-1 in overtime. They had never played three overtime games in a season.
"It's dramatically exciting," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.
The teams traded fruitless possessions for most of the game as the defenses dominated. Utah's Tom Hackett and Stanford's Ben Rhyne took turns flipping field position behind booming punts, and the Utes' rugby-style kicker often crushed the competition.
The Cardinal still had a couple of chances to win in regulation.
Shaw opted to punt from Utah's 34 with less than 2 minutes to play instead of allowing Williamson to kick a 51-yard field goal, drawing boos from the home crowd. Michael Rector also dropped a deep pass from Kevin Hogan that would've put the Cardinal inside the Utah 20 in the final seconds.
Shaw stood by his decision to punt and, in what has practically become a theme late this season, shouldered the blame for his team's shortcomings again.
"Have the slings and arrows come toward me," he said.
Stanford's best shot in the second overtime fizzled when Nate Orchard sacked Hogan to force the Cardinal into the long field goal. Orchard, who also forced a fumble, finished with 3 1/2 sacks to push his total to 16 1/2 sacks this season, eclipsing Jimmy Bellamy's school record of 15 in 1991.
Wilson threw for 177 yards and two touchdowns — both in overtime. Hogan threw for 104 yards and two TDs — including a 14-yarder to Austin Hooper in the first overtime — but struggled to move the offense most of the day.
Stanford converted a fourth-and-1 on the game's opening drive, pitching it to freshman Christian McCaffrey for a 37-yard run to the Utah 10. Two plays later, Hogan threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Lee Ward for Stanford's only score in regulation.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP