LAS VEGAS — Memo to Mountain West Conference coaches and quarterbacks: Avoid Utah's No. 17.

If the ball goes in his direction, it's likely to come back nearly as fast.

Utah safety Robert Johnson picked off a pass Saturday night, giving him four in the last two games and five on the year. He also had a fumble return for a touchdown — his second of the season.

Johnson's interception came in the second quarter, with the Utes leading 14-6 over UNLV. On a third-and-8 at the Rebel 20, he picked off an Omar Clayton pass, returning it 31 yards to set up Utah's third touchdown. That came two plays later when Terrance Cain carried it in for a 21-6 lead.

The TD by Johnson was the result of a fumble by his own teammate. Utah defensive end Christian Cox intercepted at the Rebel 30 and carried the ball two yards, but fumbled.

The ball was grabbed by Johnson, who then went 64 yards for the score.

Johnson was ranked third nationally in interceptions going into Saturday's games.

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Asked this past week about his interceptions, Johnson said, "This year, I've had to work on it; I have to not be showing up too late. But a couple of quarterbacks and a couple coaches know that with me in the middle, it might be a problem."

Johnson had three interceptions on three consecutive possessions last week against Colorado State.

Asked if he has perfected the art of "baiting" quarterbacks, he said, "A couple of times, I have had to make it look like I'm not in the middle, then get over there."

e-mail: rock@desnews.com

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