SAN FRANCISCO — It was the guy with the second-degree black belt in taekwondo, Utah's Travis LaTendresse, who delivered the knockout blow to No. 24 Georgia Tech in the Utes' 38-10 victory over the Yellow Jackets in the Emerald Bowl before 25,742 Thursday afternoon at SBC Park.
LaTendresse, a senior wide receiver, caught four touchdown passes and grabbed another pass for a two-point conversion on his way to a 16-catch day for 214 yards as the fourth-place Utes from the Mountain West Conference went to the air early and often to swat the third-place Yellow Jackets of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff completed 30 of 41 passes for 381 yards as the Utes picked up 550 yards of total offense, nearly double what Georgia Tech allowed on average this season.
"Brett did a great job of throwing the ball, and we were on the same page," LaTendresse said. "I don't think the ACC has seen a passing attack like we have."
Utah (7-5) finished with four victories in its last five games in its first season under Coach Kyle Whittingham. Georgia Tech (7-5), which had won at Auburn and at Miami, ended with three losses in its last four games.
"They didn't want to be here, you could tell," Utah cornerback Eric Weddle said of the Yellow Jacket players. "I know they beat Auburn and Miami, but who cares?"
Said LaTendresse: "I think they quit."
Georgia Tech Coach Chan Gailey disagreed.
" 'Quit' is a pretty strong word. I don't think he'd like to come in our locker room and say that."
By halftime, Utah's lead was 20-10. Ratliff, making only his second start of the season after taking over following a knee injury to Brian Johnson, threw three touchdown passes, all of them to LaTendresse to put the Yellow Jackets in a hole.
Meanwhile, Utah's defense, led by Weddle, limited standout receiver Calvin Johnson to two receptions for 19 yards.
Six plays into the game, Utah had its first touchdown, a 14-yard pass that LaTendresse tucked away. Utah made it 13-0 on a 68-yard drive that ended on Ratliff's 23-yard pass to LaTendresse. Steve Tate's 45-yard return of an intercepted pass set up Utah at the Georgia Tech 40-yard line and two plays later, Ratliff found LaTendresse for a 25-yard pass and a 20-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets got back into the game briefly on a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Reggie Ball to tight end George Cooper and then a 29-yard field goal by Travis Bell with three seconds left in the half. That play was set up by a 65-yard heave from Ball to Damarius Bilbo that put Georgia Tech on the Utah 12.
The only thing that stopped LaTendresse was the wall in the end zone, which he ran straight into, after he caught a 16-yard scoring pass from Ratliff early in the fourth quarter for a 31-10 Utah lead.