3:00 PM ET, November 19, 2005
LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT
BYU rallies, falls short in OT as Utes pull out win
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 Saturday.
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," Whittingham said.
Utah hadn't won four straight over BYU since a run from 1968-1971.
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 first start.
"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 Allen.
"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 Utah's.
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 2001.
"It's tough after a loss like this to think about a bowl game," Beck said.