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November 12, 2006Utah has the minimum number of wins needed to go to a fourth straight bowl. A couple of more wins wouldn't hurt, either.
The Utes gained 526 yards and shut down Colorado State's offense in the second half of a 35-22 win that kept alive Utah's slim hopes for winning a share of the Mountain West Conference championship.
With two games left, Utah (6-4, 4-2 Mountain West) has the six wins needed to qualify for a bowl berth.
"If we don't win this game, then we're probably not going to go to a bowl game. That was our mindset," said Utah defensive back Eric Weddle, who lined up a few times at quarterback as the Utes used several trick plays to try to put away the slumping Rams (4-6, 1-5) early.
Weddle completed a pass and ran for a touchdown as the acting quarterback and Brett Ratliff -- Utah's actual QB -- had a big game when Weddle wasn't trying to catch the Rams by surprise.
Ratliff passed for 296 yards and two touchdowns, completing 20 of 32 passes with one interception.
The Utes ran a fake punt, multiple reverses and had Weddle taking shotgun snaps in the Utes' biggest offensive output of the season.
"They've played some games where they were a little bit shaky, but I thought they played good," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said. "We were moving the ball and there was some confidence on our sideline, but they would come right back and take the ball 70 yards down the field."
Colorado State lost its fifth straight, the Rams' longest streak since losing the final five games of 1991.
The Rams had never lost four in a row under coach Sonny Lubick until this season and will try to snap the skid next week at home against TCU.
Utah visits Air Force next week, then hosts first-place Brigham Young on Nov. 25. By beating Colorado State this week, the Utes took off at least a little pressure.
"The hope is to get to a bowl game and to do that we need a good November," Ratliff said.
Caleb Hanie was 11-for-26 for 183 yards and a touchdown for the Rams, who gained just 163 yards in the second half in a cold, steady rain. Billy Farris added touchdown pass in the final minute, then Utah ran out the clock after recovering the onside kick.
It was all but over before that.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Rams had converted on eight of 12 third downs. Utah didn't allow another third-down conversion the rest of the way.
"We got better later in the game, but there was a stretch there where we were very poor on third down," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "It wasn't necessarily a schematic thing. We just weren't making plays."
After Colorado State opened the second half with a 33-yard field goal by Jason Smith, the Utes took control of the game with two touchdowns. Darryl Poston scored on a 14-yard run and Ray Stowers scored his first career touchdown on a 2-yard run that put Utah up 35-16 with 14:37 left in the game.
Derrek Richards set up Poston's run with a leaping catch at the sideline on a high pass from Ratliff.
The Utes used a double reverse to set up their next score. Sean Smith ended up with the ball and took it 30 yards to the Colorado State 17 late in the third quarter. Stowers ended the drive with a 2-yard run.
Richards also caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ratliff to give Utah a 21-13 lead with 36 seconds left in the first half.
Colorado State scored when Luke Roberts got behind Weddle in the second quarter and ran easily ran through two attempted tackles on his way to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown that got the Rams within 14-7.
The Rams scored again and had a chance to tie it after Gartrell Johnson scored on a 6-yard run, but they botched the extra point on a bad snap.
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