Rat-liffts Utes to victory

Brett Ratliff knew he wasn’t expected to go into Provo and come out with a win. He knew that Ute fans thought Theo Ratliff would have a better shot at beating the Cougars in front of 65,000 rowdy, blue-clad fans who hadn’t seen their squad beat Utah in three years.

Look who’s laughing now.

“Everybody doubted me,” Ratliff said, after the 41-34 overtime victory. “But I always like getting the ball. I always felt like I could do a good job.”

“A good job” might be the understatement of the year. Ratliff’s final line was downright Brian Johnson-like, as he produced 352 yards of total offense, four passing touchdowns and a score on the ground. To make matters better, he didn’t turn the ball over once in his first NCAA start.

“You cannot say enough about that kid,” Ute head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “It was a gutsy performance. He ran the offense like he had been doing it all year long.”

From the U’s opening drive, Ratliff proved that he not only belonged on the same field as everyone else, but that he stood above them. Driving 60 yards, Ratliff ran for a first down and capped the drive by hitting Brian Hernandez in the back of the end zone for the first of his quartet of touchdown passes.

Not letting off the gas, Ratliff led the Utes to a 24-3 halftime advantage. The Cougars battled back in the second half, but the JUCO transfer finished what he had started, slinging the winning 25-yard touchdown pass to Travis LaTendresse in overtime. BYU could not answer, and Ratliff had his first win as a Ute starter.

“I always imagined, but Brian (Johnson) was the quarterback,” Ratliff said. “Unfortunately, he got hurt and I had to come in and help the team win tonight. It’s just amazing. I’m still in shock right now.”

What surprised everyone was the supposed “pocket passer’s” mobility. Coming into the game, Ratliff was regarded as a lead-footed, strong-armed field general. But like he did in every other facet, he proved everybody wrong, rushing for 112 yards on 19 attempts, an average of 5.9 yards per carry. He also escaped several blitzes, only suffering two sacks on the afternoon.

“I’ve never seen that dude run that fast before,” Ute receiver Travis LaTendresse said. “He told me his dad ran a 4.4 forty, but I didn’t believe him.”

LaTendresse and everyone else who watched the Utes knock off the Cougars for the fourth-straight time now find themselves believing in Ratliff.