Utah linebacker Spencer Toone could leave LaVell Edwards Stadium as a double winner.

The senior enters Saturday's game at BYU as the Mountain West Conference's leader in tackles with 98 — 10 more than anyone else.

Finishing on top is something Toone would like to do after finishing second a year ago.

"It does mean something to me," he said. "It is important."

Toone, however, isn't making the statistical title his top priority.

"It's definitely a goal but a win would mean so much more," he explained. "I'll take the win anyday."

Toone and Utah's 24 other seniors are determined to end their college football careers on a positive note. At 5-5 overall, the Utes can secure a winning season and become bowl eligible with a victory over the Cougars. Last week's setback to New Mexico isn't sitting well.

"We've got a bad taste in our mouths right now. We want to get it out of our system. We want to get this loss out of our system," said defensive lineman Steve Fifita. "And the only way is to beat BYU, so that's what we plan on doing."

Running back Quinton Ganther agrees with the approach.

"This is a game here that's going to put us in or put us out," he said. "We're either going to have a winning season or a losing season. Everybody wants to be on the winning team and I'm a winner."

Victories, accomplished by a group effort, still drive the Utes. Individual accolades, as Toone will attest, are secondary — even if a prize such as tackles leader is well within grasp.

"It's a personal goal, but personal goals should never get in the way of team goals and things like that," Toone said. "I want to go out there and do my very best to help the team. If that means tackles, that's what I'll do."

SO FAR, SO GOOD: After two days of practice as Utah's starting quarterback, Brett Ratliff is doing pretty well.

"Not bad. He's a quality quarterback. That's why we recruited him," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "He's got ability. He just lacks Division I experience. That's all he lacks. He's looked pretty sharp."

SENIOR FINALE: Although four are applying to the NCAA for medical hardships and another year of eligibility, 25 Utah seniors could be playing their final college football game Saturday.

"I can't say enough about how much these seniors have meant to this program over the last few years and how proud I am of them for how they have handled the adversity that we have gone through this season," said Whittingham.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com