Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
EL PASO, Texas — For the ninth consecutive season and 10th time in the last 11 years, the Utah Utes are going bowling. It's become a routine.
"It doesn't get old because the players have such a good time. That's what's it's all about, making sure your players have a good experience," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said as the Utes continued preparations for Saturday's Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech. "As a player, going to a bowl game is a big deal and it's fun. So when I see the players enjoying themselves like they do, it makes it very rewarding for me."
After a couple of weeks of practice at home, the Utes have shifted operations to Texas. They arrived here on Monday and resume bowl preparations today.
"It's a good thing to get on-site. It's kind of a refreshing deal," Whittingham said. "You're in a new surrounding and it rejuvenates the players a little bit. It gets them excited and it also signifies that the game is right around the corner."
Besides daily practices, the Utes will engage in several bowl activities this week. Today's main event is a "Bowl before the bowl" bowling competition with the Yellow Jackets. On Wednesday, it's "Day and Dinner with the Troops" at Fort Bliss and Biggs Field. Friday will be busy with a luncheon and the Sun Bowl Fan Fiesta later in the day, featuring a battle of the bands and fireworks. Kickoff for Saturday's game is set for noon.
The activities, Whittingham noted, are just part of the deal and something the Utes will balance during the week.
"You've got to get your work done," he said. "You've got your time carved out for meetings and practice and then you've got your time that's carved out for bowl functions and enjoying what they have to offer and then free time. So we try to accommodate all three."
The Utes are getting it down to a science. They've gone bowling all seven seasons that Whittingham has been the head coach and both years under Urban Meyer before that. Bowl journeys include the Liberty (Memphis), Fiesta (Tempe, Ariz.), Emerald (San Francisco), Armed Forces (Fort Worth, Texas), Sugar (New Orleans), Maaco (Las Vegas) and two trips to the Poinsettia (San Diego).
El Paso adds to the diversity.
"It's a good thing and a new experience. These seniors have been to a lot of different bowls and this is another one that they can experience," Whittingham said. "I think a bowl situation is a positive no matter what bowl you're in. It can be a very good experience."
Utah has been to the Sun Bowl before, defeating New Mexico 26-0 in El Paso on Jan. 2, 1939. It was the program's first bowl appearance. Other bowl trips before the Meyer/Whittingham era include the Pineapple (Hawaii), Liberty (Atlantic City) and Las Vegas, as well as two journeys to both the Copper (Tucson, Ariz.) and Freedom (Anaheim, Calif.) bowls.
UTES ON THE AIR
vs. Georgia Tech (8-4)
Saturday, noon MT
El Paso, Texas
TV: CBS Radio: 700 AM
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