FORT COLLINS, Colo. — It wasn't over.
That was the message Utah safety Robert Johnson got from defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake in Saturday's 24-17 win over Colorado State.
The Utes trailed by two touchdowns at the time and there were less than five minutes to play in the third quarter.
"Coach talked to the defense and told everybody it's not over. It's not over until you see three zeroes," Johnson said. "When the offense took the ball and scored that motivated me on the sidelines."
Just 36 seconds after CSU increased its lead to 17-3, Utah fought back.
A 47-yard touchdown pass from Terrance Cain to David Reed sparked what proved to be a successful rally.
While the Utes went on to put two more scores on the board — off a1-yard run by Wide and an 8-yard touchdown pass from Cain to Wide in the fourth quarter — the Rams were shut out.
Johnson ended their final three offensive series with interceptions. The last one sealed the deal with 2:20 to play.
"He is a great player and made great plays," Cain said. "Big-time players make big-time plays."
Wide also delivered praise.
"Robert Johnson did a great job for us," he said. "He helped us out in getting the ball back."
Johnson's first two interceptions led to Utah touchdowns. The final one ended any hopes CSU had of tying things up again.
The Utes maintained possession the rest of the way.
Whittingham credits offensive coordinator Dave Schramm for doing a great job calling the game, especially late.
"It comes down to execution most often," Whittingham said. "We just did a better job of executing late in the game."
Cain directed the offense to 6-of-6 success on third downs down the stretch. He was determined to stay poised, remain calm and lead the team to victory.
"(Cain) played like a really, really big-time player and that is what Utah does," said CSU cornerback Nick Oppenneer. "They made some adjustments, he made some plays and we just did not stop them. That is what it comes down to."
Whittingham called the comeback a learning experience for his team.
"We dug ourselves a hole," he noted. "But we climbed back out of it."
Next up: UNLV.
The Utes return to Las Vegas Saturday for the first time since an embarrassing 27-0 setback in 2007.
Whittingham insists they'll have their hands full.
"I know they've had some tough games this year. But they've got talent," he explained. "They're explosive and we all know what happened there two years ago. So we've got to be ready."
Utes on the air
No. 24 Utah (4-1, 1-0) at UNLV (2-4, 0-2)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: The Mtn.
Radio: 700 AM