SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah didn't score in the first or fourth
quarters against UNLV. With what the Utes did in the second and
third periods, it didn't matter.
Utah scored two touchdowns in the final minute of the first half
and added three more TDs in the third quarter to end a two-game
losing streak by beating the Rebels 45-23 on Saturday.
"It's huge for us," said Brett Ratliff, who tied a career high
with four touchdown passes. "It was real important for us to get
this win today -- to come out and play like we did."
Brent Casteel caught three of Ratliff's touchdown passes and JJ
Williams returned an interception 22 yards for a score for the Utes
(5-4, 3-2 Mountain West), who have next weekend off and didn't want
to go into the bye week any worse off than they had been.
"That's the only thing that can fix what ails you," Utah coach
Kyle Whittingham said.
It was a good time to play UNLV (1-7, 0-4).
The Rebels lost their seventh straight and finished with 297
yards in coach Mike Sanford's return to Utah, where he was
offensive coordinator two years ago in the Utes' 12-0 season. The
Rebels had just 173 yards through three quarters and turned the
ball over three times in the game.
"I don't know how many times we did turn the ball over, but it
was too many. You just can't win doing that," Sanford said. "We
competed and played hard, however, not in any way am I satisfied or
Rocky Hinds completed 25 of 35 passes for 232 yards and two
touchdowns for UNLV, but also had two interceptions that led to
touchdowns for Utah.
Ratliff, who had thrown four interceptions in consecutive losses
to Wyoming and New Mexico, had his best game since throwing four
touchdowns against Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl to end last
He finished with as many touchdowns as incompletions, going
19-for-23 for 268 yards with no interceptions.
"I'd say that's a very efficient day," Whittingham said. "It
looked like Brett was on track."
Utah couldn't afford another loss, especially against the
struggling Rebels and having a week off before Colorado State
visits on Nov. 11. After a scoreless first quarter, the Utes pulled
away in the second and third.
UNLV didn't score a touchdown until early in the fourth quarter,
when it was too late for any chance at a comeback.
"The O-line played great. The defense played great. The
receivers -- everybody played a great game today," Ratliff said.
Utah's lead was only 10-3 until Ratliff scored on a 2-yard run
with 59 seconds left in the second quarter.
UNLV could have run out the clock and taken the two-touchdown
deficit into halftime, but Hinds threw it on first down and the
throw was behind Casey Flair, who tipped the ball right to Utah's
Malakai Mokofisi and Utah got the ball back at the 27.
"That's a great way to take pressure off your offense. Set them
up with a short-field situation," Whittingham said. "That was a
big momentum-type changing play."
Casteel ended the short drive with an over-the-shoulder catch
for a 19-yard touchdown from Ratliff that put the Utes up 24-3 at
UNLV cut it to 24-6 early in the third quarter on Sergio
Aguayo's second field goal of the game, then Utah answered with two
more touchdowns in less than a minute.
Ratliff threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Colt Sampson with 8:55
left in the third quarter, then after the after the kickoff Hinds
threw a pass right to Williams, who had a clear path to the end
zone for a touchdown that put the Utes up 38-6.
Ratliff added another 19-yard touchdown pass to Casteel with
4:01 left in the third and Utah led 45-6 entering the fourth
Two touchdown passes from Hinds and a third field goal by Aguayo
in the fourth quarter didn't make much of a difference.
UNLV hasn't won since the season opener against Idaho State.
"We have a lot of work to do," Sanford said. "My main
statement is that we lost. We let the game get away from us in the