The Utes ended a down season on a serious high note on Thursday with a 38-10 thumping of #24 ranked Georgia Tech. The underdog Utes scored on their first possession and never looked back in their lopsided win over the Yellow Jackets.
Keys to the Game
Junior quarterback Brett Ratliff demonstrated poise and confidence that belied the fact that he was facing the nation's 10th ranked defense in only his second Division I start. He set the tone early by completing a 22-yard pass to Marquis Wilson on his first attempt of the day, and never looked back. For the day, he finished with 381 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Although Ratliff's performance was remarkable, it was overshadowed by that of Travis LaTendresse. The senior receiver decimated the Georgia Tech secondary, catching 16 passes for 214-yards and four touchdowns.
Utah's defense made big plays when it mattered; intercepting two first half passes from Reggie Ball, and forcing a turnover on downs inside the Utah 30 yard line. The Utah defense also solved many of its season-long second half defensive woes by shutting out Georgia Tech after halftime.
What this win means
Although the Utes struggled at times this season under first year head coach Kyle Whittingham, the team saved their best performance for last. The Utes set 18 individual and team Emerald Bowl records in the blowout win. The win preserves a winning record for the season, and helps lessen the sting of Utah's early season disappointments.
Utah's victory should also have positive ramifications during the off-season. A lopsided victory over a ranked ACC opponent will enhance the Utes' national credibility, and provides an important selling point as the Ute coaching staff works to finalize its recruiting class. The win should also provide momentum for the returning players as they enter into off-season conditioning programs and prepare for spring football.
Additionally, the win can help generate positive buzz surrounding the program for 2006. With the core group of Utah's starters returning on both sides of the ball, the Utes could position themselves for an early season run at a top 25 ranking. Eric Weddle's performance against the premier receiver in college football could also bolster his chances at earning All-American honors in 2006.
Travis LaTendresse – LaTendresse saved his best performance for last. The Emerald Bowl's offensive Most Outstanding Player set bowl records for receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. LaTendresse was just the fourth Ute to surpass 200 receiving yards in a game, and fell just one reception shy of Utah's all time single game mark.
Brett Ratliff – Ratliff was superb as the Utes' field general, completing 30 of 41 passes for 381 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Eric Weddle – Weddle proved why he is the best shut down corner in the West, as he held All-American receiver Calvin Johnson to just two receptions and 19 yards. Weddle also recorded three tackles and a pass breakup. He earned defensive Most Outstanding Player honors for his performance.
Martail Burnett – Burnett played perhaps his best game of the season. He recorded seven tackles, including a key sack and a pass breakup, and consistently pressured Georgia Tech QB Reggie Ball.