SALT LAKE CITY -- With seconds remaining, the Utah Blaze found themselves in the red zone, poised to send Saturday's must-win game with division rival San Jose into overtime.
A botched snap on third down pushed the Blaze back five yards and deflated a roaring crowd at EnergySolutions Arena. A second botched snap on fourth was recovered by San Jose and sealed the SaberCats' 57-49 win.
It also officially ended Utah's (5-9) chance at postseason play.
A visibly dejected Utah coach Ron James voiced his disappointment with a perceived no-call on the final play of the Blaze drive.
"Clearly the nose guard jumped the snap count," James explained. "He hit the center before the ball even arrived. We've had that in other games. It wasn't called. End of game."
In his third career start, Blaze quarterback Jason Boltus completed over 64 percent of his attempts for 306 yards and seven touchdowns while adding 44 yards on the ground. He also threw the first interception-free game of the season.
Despite the solid performance from Boltus, Utah's struggles in the third quarter once again hurt the Blaze as they failed to find the end zone through the entire quarter while giving up a score to San Jose.
"When the defense answered in the third quarter we had to convert it to points," James said. "If it's a 7-7 third quarter we don't give up that extra possession. There's not a great sense of urgency when we're in a scoring position in the third quarter for some reason. We get in those situations and we don't focus enough."
After a back-and-forth first-half battle, San Jose took a 34-28 lead into the locker room after the SaberCats recovered an onside attempt late in the second quarter. On the ensuing drive San Jose QB Russ Michna found Jason Willis for a 10-yard touchdown with nine seconds on the clock.
Michna threw for 269 yards and six touchdowns on 26-of-40 passing to help San Jose (10-4) win its second consecutive game.
San Jose went up 41-28 after earning the only score of the third quarter on a touchdown grab by Amarri Jackson.
Utah linebacker Antwan Marsh led the Blaze defense with 3.5 tackles (one for a loss), two interceptions for 12 yards, and a pass breakup.
On Utah's final drive of the game, a pass interference call on San Jose put Utah on the four-yard-line where Boltus fumbled (and recovered) the snap, moving Utah back to the 14-yard line with 11 seconds left.
The botched snap on the next play ended Utah's postseason hopes with four regular season games left on the slate. While disappointed by the early exclusion from the playoffs, James said there's still something for his guys to work for.
"We're all playing for our jobs for the rest of the season, myself included," he said. "The main thing we're trying to accomplish is putting together a complete game. We haven't done that yet. We're only as good as the season we put out there and we haven't played consistently all season long."
Utah will host the New Orleans Voodoo at ESA on Saturday starting at 7 p.m.