Emerald Bowl


Georgia Tech 10

(7-5, 3-3 away)

Utah 38

(7-5, 5-2 home)

Coverage: ESPN

4:30 PM ET, December 29, 2005

1 2 3 4 T
GT 0 7 3 010
UTAH 13 7 3 1538

Top Performers

Passing: B. Ratliff (UTAH) - 381 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: Q. Ganther (UTAH) - 22 CAR, 120 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: T. LaTendresse (UTAH) - 16 REC, 214 YDS, 4 TD

Utes prepared for different kind of bowl test

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Nearly a year after Utah invaded the Bowl Championship Series for the final victory in an amazing unbeaten season, center Jesse Boone simply is grateful for the chance to finish his college career with any fiesta at all.

Boone, who has played two positions for three coaches in five years at Utah, will lead the Utes against No. 24 Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl on Thursday. The all-conference standout has seen far more highs than lows during a tumultuous time for Utah football, most notably the Utes' 12-0 run in 2004, capped by a blowout victory over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl.

Almost anything would be anticlimactic after that dream season. But Boone sees nothing wrong with a trip to picturesque San Francisco for a tough game against the Yellow Jackets (7-4), particularly when the revamped Utes (6-5) nearly missed the postseason before an overtime win over archrival BYU in the regular-season finale.

"I think we're relieved by the chance to be here after all we've gone through," said Boone, whose younger brother, Jason, plays right tackle for the Utes. "Nothing is ever going to match last year, but this is a different team. We seniors have just about done it all, but we would like one more win to cap it."

Some Georgia Tech players were disappointed when they ended up in San Francisco, knowing the cross-country trip would limit their traveling party of fans for their ninth straight bowl appearance.

The Utes had no such qualms, enjoying everything from rainy East Bay practices to the teams' annual trip to Alcatraz Island. In fact, coach Kyle Whittingham loved the chance to end his rookie season by the San Francisco Bay when the Las Vegas Bowl chose BYU despite its loss to Utah.

"We've had a great time since we've been here," said Whittingham, the Utes' defensive coordinator for 10 years before taking over for Urban Meyer. "This beats the heck out of Memphis, Tenn., that's for sure, and one of the best places to see Las Vegas is in your rearview mirror."

The Utes visited Memphis for the 2003 Liberty Bowl, then followed up that conference championship with last season's perfect BCS run. At the Emerald Bowl, they're going for their fifth straight bowl victory.

And not all the Yellow Jackets were disappointed about being so far from Atlanta for the postseason: Linebacker Gerris Wilkinson, Georgia Tech's co-captain and leading tackler, is an Oakland native. Wilkinson was even more excited about the matchup than the homecoming, though.

"I've never spent so much time in San Francisco in my life," Wilkinson said with a grin. "The only disappointment we had was that so many teammates would be away from their families at Christmas. Once we started to study the film of Utah, we realized on the defense that this was going to be a great challenge all around. That's a big, talented team."

Coach Chan Gailey agrees with his star linebacker, deciding through film study that Utah might have the most massive offensive line his team has seen.

"After going over to Alcatraz on a boat with them (Monday), I haven't changed my opinion," Gailey said. "They're big human beings. … They can block out the sun on you if you're not careful."

That line will protect quarterback Brett Ratliff, who took over for injured Brian Johnson just in time to lead the victory over BYU. Ratliff should be able to play on his sprained ankle, but Utah could rely heavily on running back Quinton Ganther, a native of nearby Richmond who will have about 200 friends and family members at the game.

West Coast fans will get an opportunity to see sophomore receiver Calvin Johnson, the Yellow Jackets' rising star who caught 52 passes for 869 yards and six touchdowns this season.

When asked to compare Johnson to another receiver the Utes had faced, Whittingham instead chose Terrell Owens. Utah cornerback Eric Weddle, the Mountain West's defensive player of the year, largely will get the defensive assignment.

And though both teams have high hopes for a season-ending bowl victory, they're also comfortable simply enjoying the trip.

"My philosophy about bowl games has always been (that) unless you're playing for a championship or one of the top spots in the country, it should be a reward and it should be fun for the kids," Gailey said. "That being said, they're keeping score, so you're going out with the purpose of winning."


Passing Leaders

J. Thomas51.31719186
T. Byerly69.214810
T. Wilson60.72170185
K. Thompson61.532422

Rushing Leaders

J. Thomas19010865.78
S. Days1579245.99
D. Booker29215125.210
T. Wilson1143092.75

Receiving Leaders

D. Smelter3571520.47
D. Waller2644217.06
K. Clay4352312.24
K. Scott4850610.54