If you watched Hillary patch things up with Obama, and Mitt make nice with McCain, then you know this story: Bitter enemies and harsh critics can later turn as chummy as Teletubbies.

It's all about appearances. And convenience.

All that bad blood, all those nasty comments, are history. No hard feelings.

Well, maybe a few.

Leading 35-14 in the fourth quarter, the Utes unveiled a trick play when running back Matt Asiata passed to Jereme Brooks for a 32-yard touchdown. Thus, the Utes exacted revenge for last year's 27-0 loss to UNLV, winning 42-21 on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

It might have been worse, had a 34-yard Asiata run in the final minute not been negated by a penalty.

But, of course, it was nothing personal. They took no real pleasure in it. Just business.

Even though, after last year's game, UNLV coach Mike Sanford, a former Ute assistant, said the Utes were a bunch of 'fraidy-cats.

He didn't use that term, but he did use this one in describing the 190-yard rushing day his own Frank Summers had last year: "They were avoiding trying to tackle him, no question in my mind."

That didn't sit well with the Utes, who considered the remark the next thing to calling them cowards. But quickly Sanford went into retreat mode, saying that's not what he meant. He and Ute coach Kyle Whittingham were close friends and have the greatest respect, etc.

So it was, before this year's game, no one was calling for revenge. At least not publicly. Privately it was probably a different matter. What better way to get your team ready than to dredge up old insults?

Hasn't anyone ever heard of bulletin-board motivation? It works.

Wouldn't YOU be insulted if someone beat you 27-0 and then said you looked scared out of your undies?

"We knew the guys on the Vegas team were talking a little bit. It got us hot," said Utah receiver Freddie Brown following Saturday's win. "We wanted to come out here and make sure we won."

Who knew taking care of business could feel so good?

Getting mad and getting even can be a beautiful combination.

That's one of the problems with sports — they're too much like politics. You work your guts out trying to beat the other guy's brains out, then talk like you didn't. You speak like the guy who's trying to get you fired is a close friend.

In all honesty, Sanford may not have been far off with last year's remarks. It certainly looked that way in the early going on Saturday. Summers was back, rough as ever, rolling for 82 yards in the first half. But that was it. The Utes held him to just nine in the second half.

"We watched the film of it last year and we were a little bit embarrassed to get shut out like that," said Brown. "So we were happy to win tonight."

In beating the Rebels, the Utes took a more important step than one might think. It not only proved they can even old scores, but it showed they can pay attention to lesser planets than Michigan.

That's because historically the Utes can get ready for big games. It's the conniving neighbor that does them in. If not UNLV, it's Air Force. If not Air Force it's Wyoming. If not Wyoming it's New Mexico.

The Utes have all too often played down and up to their competition.

Consequently, they couldn't afford to let up this week. You can't beat Michigan one week and lose the next week to the team Sports Illustrated rated No. 101 in the nation.

People will think you're a fraud.

Worse yet, they'll think you're scared.

E-mail: [email protected]