SAN FRANCISCO — Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff made the most of his first trip home since July. Besides enjoying Christmas with his family in nearby Chico, Calif., he was able to rest his sprained left ankle.

"I stayed off it a pretty good amount. The swelling went down a lot," Ratliff said after Monday's Emerald Bowl practice at Laney College in Oakland. "It's feeling good. I'm still kind of babying it a little bit, but come game time I'll be 100 percent ready to go."

To provide extra support in hopes of preventing the injury from being re-aggravated, Ratliff is wearing an ankle brace.

"He's fine," insisted Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "He'll be fine. He looked good today."

Ratliff, who suffered the injury during a practice in Salt Lake City, is slated to make his second consecutive start for the Utes. The junior college transfer threw four touchdown passes in leading Utah to a 41-34 overtime win at BYU on Nov. 19. He replaced starter Brian Johnson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury a week earlier against New Mexico.

SHARED SIDELINE: One of the problems with playing a football game on a baseball field is space. Because of permanent seating at SBC Park, the Utes and Yellow Jackets will share one sideline in Thursday's game. Each team will occupy one side between the 15- and 45-yard lines. A buffer zone extending five yards in both directions from midfield will keep the squads separated.

"We've talked about that. That'll be a little bit of a logistical issue but the officials — we've been told — are well-versed in how to handle it," Whittingham said. "There's going to have to be some modification of how they allow substitutions. Otherwise it won't work. We've been assured that the officials will make it work for us."

A LITTLE LATE: The Utes arrived in San Francisco a couple of hours later than scheduled Sunday. Their charter flight was delayed by a couple of things. For starters, the plane wasn't on the tarmac when it was supposed to be because the Hawaii Bowl ran long. It transported Nevada, which defeated Central Florida, 49-48, in overtime, back to Reno from Honolulu.

Once in Utah, federal law required that the flight crew observe a rest period before flying again. The Utes, however, still wound up getting to town in time for a welcoming dinner at the hotel.

TELEPHONE TECH: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that many Georgia Tech players spent a lot of time on Christmas using their cellular phones. The Yellow Jackets spent a good chunk of the holiday traveling to San Francisco.

"I've been on the phone continuously, nonstop," running back P.J. Daniels told the newspaper, while noting he had a hard time keeping up with his season greetings. "Now, it's pretty much text messages."

NOT WITH TEAM: Senior kicker Bryan Borreson, the hero of Utah's 3-0 win over BYU in 2003, is one of a handful of players who did not accompany the Utes to San Francisco. Injuries have kept Borreson, whose collegiate career is likely over, off the field all season long.

Whittingham said players who weren't really involved in the Emerald Bowl were given the option of going home and starting their vacations early.

The Utes, he added, had no academic issues that prevented any players from making the trip.