PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said all week
that backup quarterback Brett Ratliff had a strong enough arm to
give the Utes a chance against rival Brigham Young on Saturday.
It was Ratliff's legs -- and his poise through the tense final
minutes -- that caught BYU by surprise while he led the Utes to a
win that saved their season.
Ratliff threw four touchdown passes, including one in overtime,
and ran for another while scrambling to 112 yards rushing and
leading Utah to a 41-34 overtime victory over Brigham Young on
The Utes (6-5, 4-4 Mountain West) won the state rivalry for the
fourth straight time and become eligible for a bowl game.
"To be a part of this and getting to win it, it's amazing,"
said Ratliff, whose 25-yard touchdown pass to Travis LaTendresse in
overtime set up a final defensive stand that won it for Utah.
The game ended when John Beck's pass in the end zone was just
out of reach for a diving Michael Reed on fourth-and-6. The Utes
charged onto the field after the final incompletion and a few stuck
around to douse Whittingham with a jug of water to celebrate the
first-year coach's victory over his alma mater, which offered
Whittingham its coaching job last year.
The Utes needed a win Saturday to avoid going from 12-0 last
season to a 5-6 finish. And few gave Utah a chance after
quarterback Brian Johnson tore a knee ligament the week before late
in a loss to New Mexico.
"To me, this makes this whole season a positive one,"
Utah hadn't won four straight over BYU since a run from
BYU (6-5, 5-3) trailed 24-3 at halftime and had to rally from a
10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime, but
failed to score after winning the coin toss and electing to let
Utah go first on offense.
Ratliff threw the ball erratically, but caught the Cougars off
guard with his running ability and had 19 carries, although only a
few of them were planned. Quinton Ganther ran for 131 yards on 21
carries to help Ratliff, a junior college transfer, adjust in his
"They were surprised we ran the ball. They're still
surprised," Ratliff said.
Although many of his passes were way off, he completed 17 of 32
and was on target for all four of his touchdown throws. He also
didn't throw an interception.
"Rat-a-tat-tat went off today!" said LaTendresse, who had
eight catches for 88 yards. "He has a strong arm. Sometimes he
muscles it a little too much, but he was on the money when he
needed to be."
On second-and-10 from the 25 in overtime, Ratliff hit
LaTendresse on a slant pattern at the 1-yard line and LaTendresse
tumbled in for the score.
"It was the perfect play. The perfect call for the perfect
situation," Ratliff said.
After the play, Utah still had to keep the Cougars out of the
end zone to win it.
The Utes stopped Beck for 1 yard on a keeper, forced an
incompletion and Soli Lefiti knocked down a pass on third down to
set up the final play. On fourth down, Beck rolled to his left and
threw a high pass that just missed Reed's diving attempt at the
back of the end zone.
"They did a good job of D-ing up on that last play. There was
nobody (open)," Beck said.
Beck was 27-for-47 for 309 yards and two touchdowns for the
Cougars, who still finished the regular season with a winning
record for the first time since 2001.
Curtis Brown ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns for BYU, which
trailed 24-3 at halftime after a quick start by Utah. The Cougars
limited the Utes to 225 yards of offense in the second half and
Beck led the rally with touchdown passes to Todd Watkins and Matt
"It came down to them making one more play than we did," said
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, who was promoted from defensive
coordinator after Whittingham turned down the job and accepted
As the Cougars rallied, the Utes held on just enough to keep
from ever falling behind. Ratliff hit Brian Hernandez for a 45-yard
touchdown pass with 5:47 left in the third and Dan Beardall added a
44-yard field goal to pad Utah's margin just enough.
The Utes also kept the Cougars from driving within scoring range
after punting to the BYU 38 with 2:11 remaining.
The Cougars still finished in second place in the league
standings and should be making their first bowl appearance since
"It's tough after a loss like this to think about a bowl
game," Beck said.