Terrance Cain played like he had never lost his starting job and No. 20 Utah capitalized on punting that was worse than the Utes' own.
Cain passed for two touchdowns in his first start in almost a year and Shaky Smithson returned a punt 77 yards for a score to lead the Utes over UNLV 38-10 on Saturday.
"It felt so good to be out there with the boys I sweat with everyday in practice," said Cain, who got the start when Utah decided not to risk Jordan Wynn's sprained right thumb.
Utah (2-0, 1-0) won its 19th straight at home and final Mountain West Conference opener before joining the Pac-10 next year.
Cain finished 13 for 20 for 207 yards with no interceptions or fumbles. He'd throw short passes and let the receivers run with it, then found Smithson all alone for his longest pass of the day on a 55-yard touchdown that helped the Utes blow open the game in the third quarter despite allowing their second blocked punt in as many games.
Fortunately for the Utes, the Rebels struggled more in nearly every facet of punting. Utah scored three times on UNLV punting mistakes — Smithson's return, a horrible snap and a fumbled return.
Coach Bobby Hauck, who was on the road with the Rebels for the first time, had very little to say afterward.
"I don't mean to be so abrupt. I'm just upset," Hauck said. "Utah was better and they made fewer mistakes."
Tim Hasson scored UNLV's only touchdown on a 19-yard return of a blocked punt in the third quarter.
UNLV (0-2, 0-1) has still never won in Salt Lake City.
Eddie Wide ran for two touchdowns and Utah's defense didn't allow a touchdown, stuffing the Rebels just outside the goal line on two drives late in the fourth quarter.
Cain was making his first start since last Oct. 31 against Wyoming, when he was pulled at halftime and Wynn took over the job and ended up keeping it.
Cain didn't appear at all rusty from the layoff, especially with quick touchdowns late in the second quarter and early in the third that allowed the Utes to pull away.
"Once we got it rolling, they had a hard time stopping us," Cain said.
Cain threw one to Jereme Brooks from 20 yards out to put Utah up 17-3 at halftime, then found Smithson alone inside the 10 and Smithson easily scored 1:13 into the third period.
"We are blessed to have two great quarterbacks," Smithson said. "No matter which one is in, we believe we can win. Terrance came in and proved that today."
Smithson, who had two muffed returns in the season opener against Pittsburgh, scored again with 7:22 left in the third on an electrifying play that atoned for his mistakes the week before. After catching the punt at the 23, Smithson took one step forward and then stopped completely, taking a look as the UNLV defenders closed in on him. He ran first to his right, then reversed to his left and had a clear lane all the way down the sideline for the touchdown.
"We thought we were making a comeback and we let a big play like that break down," UNLV linebacker Starr Fuimaono said. "I think we all just lost wherever they set up their wall. There wasn't too much we could do."
The Rebels' punt team cost them again with a snap that sailed several feet over punter Brendon Lamers' head. Lamers ran it down and managed to get off a kick while still on the run, but the ball went out of bounds at the 33 for a loss of 20 yards.
Wide scored his second touchdown a few plays later on a 13-yard run that put Utah up 38-10.
Wide, who put Utah up 7-3 on a 4-yard run in the second quarter, made two great plays on the same punt to set up a touchdown. He knocked the ball free from returner Sidney Hodge, then sprang on the loose ball to set up the Utes at the UNLV 20. That led to Cain's TD pass to Brooks.
Omar Clayton was 18 for 37 for 217 yards and Nolan Kohorst kicked a 28-yard field goal for the Rebels.