Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah's Darrell Mack bulls past UNLV's Quinton Pointer (10) and Terrance Lee as the University of Utah defeated UNLV in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams. After trailing early, the Utes crushed the Runnin' Rebels.

A week ago, the Utah football team had an absolutely abysmal third quarter when it gained just 27 yards against Michigan and let the Wolverines stay in the game.

Saturday night, just the opposite happened.

After a dismal first half, the Utes turned a tight game around in the third quarter, absolutely dominating UNLV in every phase of the game. And turning a close game into a blowout.

The Utes gained 154 total yards to just 11 for UNLV. They had eight first downs to just one for the Rebels. And, most importantly, they scored 21 points to zero for the Rebels.

"Coach gave us a good speech at halftime and we came out fighting," said receiver David Reed.

So what did you say at halftime, coach?

"I challenged them a little bit," said Whittingham. "I told them it was a street fight and that the tougher and more physical team would win the game. They responded."

Reed helped get the Utes off to a good start in the second half by returning the kickoff 49 yards. He nearly broke it all the way before being tackled at midfield by the UNLV kicker.

"Oh man, I was just thinking too much," Reed said. "It won't happen again."

The Utes went down and scored after a five-play drive and added scores on each of their next two drives. A score early in the fourth quarter turned the game into a rout at 42-14.

After a slow start, Utah quarterback Brian Johnson was outstanding in the third quarter. He completed eight of nine passes for 96 yards, including two touchdown passes, from 32 yards to Freddie Brown and to Colt Sampson from 8 yards out.

"There was no panic at halftime," Johnson said. "We knew we didn't play a good half of football and we wanted to come out a prove we were able to put a team away in the second half."

Just as impressive as the offense was the Ute defense, which stopped the Rebels cold in the third quarter.

"We tweaked a couple of things, but the bottom line is we controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half," said defensive coordinator Gary Andersen. "After halftime, they were a different group of people."

Summers, who bulldozed the Utes for 82 first-half yards, was held to just five yards in the second half and just three in the third quarter on three carries.

"It was a pretty rough start," said Brent Casteel. "There was a lot said at halftime, but nothing we had to change. We just had to go out and play our game. The second half was our time to shine."

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