Utah Utes football: Festivities complete, Utes focus on Broncos
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — Utah completed the pomp and circumstance portion of MAACO Bowl Las Vegas with a kickoff luncheon at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Next up: today's football game against Boise State.
"It's like Friday and we're going through our typical Friday routine from this point forward," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "The ability of our players to lock in and focus and keep their minds where they need to be is going to be critical."
Tuesday's gathering featured short remarks by both head coaches, a player from each team and bowl officials. Former NFL player and coach Herm Edwards, who is now with ESPN, was the guest speaker.
"He's a guy I've admired for many years and he did great with his speech. It was a great event," Whittingham said. "He's still got that fire in his belly. I wish he were still coaching but I think he's having a good time doing the TV thing right now."
Edwards directed his remarks to the players and encouraged them to take advantage of their opportunities and honor the names on the back of their jerseys, as well as the front.
Before the inspirational speech, the crowd shared a few laughs. After Utah senior Zane Taylor spoke about writing his talk while his wife ironed his clothes, Boise State coach Chris Petersen offered a funny rebuttal.
"Where we differ is my wife was at the spa and I was ironing my own clothes," Petersen quipped. "You must be newly married."
SEEKING REDEMPTION: Before leaving for Las Vegas, Whittingham acknowledged that the game could be "a chance at some redemption" after Utah's poor showing against comparable TCU earlier in the season.
"It would be nice to come out and play the way that we feel we're capable of playing and have a better showing than we did against TCU for sure,' Whittingham said.
IDAHO UTES: Scout team quarterback J.J. Hyde, a freshman from Vallivue High School in Caldwell, is one of just two Utes on the roster to come from the Gem State. Wide receiver Griff McNabb of Pocatello is the other.
A Boise reporter learned that Whittingham jokingly asked Hyde about which side he was really on.
"He gave the right answer," Whittingham said. "Most definitely."
Whittingham said that Hyde, a true freshman walk-on, has done a great job all year long and is a top-notch kid with high character.
GRACIOUS HOST: UNLV coach Bobby Hauck greeted the Utes after Monday's practice at the Rebels' facility.
"It's great. We've got a lot of friends on the staff and some kids we know from past recruiting seasons," Hauck said. "So it's great to see them out here. It's always fun to see your friends, especially around the holidays."
The coach is "fired up" to see the game between Utah and Boise State.
"I get to be a fan," Hauck said. "I'm going to tailgate and everything."
Ironically, UNLV is traditionally where the Pac-10 participtes in the bowl practices. With the conference unable to field a qualifying team to this year's game, Utah wound up on campus.
When a reporter asked if that meant the Utes had already moved on to their new league, Whittingham joked that they must have.
"That's good," he said of the practice situation. "I guess that's a good thing."
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