No place like home opener
QB Ratliff has been looking forward to starting on Saturday
Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Quarterback Brett Ratliff has done a lot of things in his career at Utah.
He's beaten BYU and had a record-setting performance in the Utes' Emerald Bowl win over Georgia Tech.
A week ago, the senior led the Utes onto the field at the historic Rose Bowl.
Now, something he treasures even more. On Saturday, Ratliff will make his first start at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"I've been way excited about it. I've been thinking about coming out of the tunnel pregame and just having everybody go nuts," Ratliff said. "It's one thing to come out as the backup, but to come out as the starter ... it will definitely fire me up."
Since replacing the injured Brian Johnson late last season, Ratliff is 2-1 as the starter winning in Provo and San Francisco, losing in Pasadena.
"The Rose Bowl was a great place to play. It was a memorable place to play," Ratliff said. "But the first game at home and starting is just something I've been dreaming about. I'm way excited to be playing here and at Rice-Eccles Stadium."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham can relate.
"I think your own home fans are what it's all about. As a player I loved to play in front of the home fans," Whittingham said. "I think every player feels the same way. Our guys feel a commitment to our fans and an obligation to perform. So I think everybody gets excited about that."
Ratliff, however, is even more motivated. He's eager to put last Saturday's subpar performance behind him.
"The last week was just a fluke. It's not going to happen again," Ratliff said. "I just want to go out there and prove that I can play on a consistent basis."
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who also coaches Utah's quarterbacks, is well aware of Ratliff's intentions.
"I know he's anxious to get back out on the field and show the hometown crowd what he's all about," Ludwig said. "He doesn't feel real good about the opener of his senior year, so he's real anxious for the home opener."
Ratliff, he added, is a pretty low-key guy who won't get caught up in the excitement of making his first start at home.
"I don't think he's going to be too high or anything like that," Ludwig said. "He's very focused on getting his production level up to where it needs to be, and we're all anxious to watch it."
Ratliff was 13-of-31 passing for 162 yards with a touchdown and an interception against UCLA.
A far cry from his heroics at the end of 2005.
In the overtime win over BYU, Ratliff threw for 240 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 112 yards and a score to earn Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.Ratliff also shined in the Emerald Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. He set school bowl records with 30 completions, 381 passing yards and four touchdowns.
EXTRA POINTS: Safety Steve Tate practiced Thursday but is still questionable for Saturday's game because of a bruised knee. Whittingham said receiver Brian Hernandez will definitely be sidelined with a thigh contusion ... Former Utah receiver John Madsen has made the Oakland Raiders' roster. He's expected to see most of his action at tight end and special teams ... Northern Arizona likely will be playing in front of its biggest out-of-state road crowd ever. The Lumberjacks played before a crowd of 36,095 at Oregon State in 2001.
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