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Utah Utes football notebook: Utes focused on Tech, will reminisce later

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 9:53 p.m. MST

EL PASO, Texas — All the pomp, circumstance and pageantry of the Sun Bowl is over — at least for Utah's coaches and players.

It's all about football now as the Utes wrapped up preparations to face Georgia Tech.

"It's game time," said left tackle John Cullen. "That's what I'm excited for, to make it feel like a game again instead of all the other stuff that goes into bowls."

Although the hospitality has been great, the senior and his teammates are looking forward to a good matchup with the Yellow Jackets.

"It's been a long week," Cullen said. "We're ready to play a football game."

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham noted that the team has had a lot of good practices in preparing for Georgia Tech, including a crisp, productive session to cap things off on Thursday. A walk-through was held Friday.

"The final practice was very good. Everybody was excited," said senior special teams standout Greg Bird. "I think we got a lot accomplished to get ready for the game."

While fellow seniors like defensive end Derrick Shelby say they haven't spent a lot of time reminiscing, others acknowledge that the end of their careers at Utah has been a topic of discussion.

"We've been talking in the hotel and stuff about all the good times we've had here and stuff," said linebacker Chaz Walker. "It's been a great run, but we're definitely concentrating on getting the win on Saturday."

That's the focus.

"It hasn't hit me yet," linebacker Matt Martinez said while joking that the seniors are going to stay on the airplane back to Salt Lake City as long as possible so they can continue to be a part of the team.

Martinez then took a serious tone.

"We're here to concentrate on a football game," he said.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Whittingham was asked by a reporter from Hawaii what he would tell a first-time visitor to Earth about Norm Chow.

After responding with "wow," Whittingham answered the question about the new head coach of the Warriors.

"He's a pretty serious guy. He's very professional, very intelligent and a good football coach," Whittingham said. "How about that?"

BERGSTROM INVITED: Right tackle Tony Bergstrom has been invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game, Jan. 22 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The game will be televised by the NFL Network.

INJURY UPDATE: The Utes will be without two starters in the Sun Bowl. Whittingham confirmed that starting left guard Miles Mason (elbow) has not practiced this week and will not play in the game. Defensive tackle Dave Kruger (leg infection) will also be sidelined, as well valuable reserve LT Tuipulotu (knee).

Georgia Tech offensive lineman Omoregie Uzzi, a first-team All-ACC honoree and second-team SI.com All-America, is considered questionable with an undisclosed injury.

IT'S A TIE: Whittingham sported a gold tie at Friday morning's press conference at the El Paso Convention Center.

"My wife said 'You're wearing a Georgia Tech tie today.' So this is out of respect for Georgia Tech," Whittingham said before drawing laughter by opening his sport coat and revealing a U of U lining to balance it out.

NEW LOOK?: KSL.com is reporting that the Sun Bowl will be the last time the Utes sport the drum and feather logo on their football helmets.

Utah associate athletics director Liz Abel, however, said no decision has been made.

"Every year we re-evaluate the drum and feather logo and we have nothing official to report at this time," she said in response to the report.

HEADED TO HAWAII: Utah administrative assistants Lewis Powell and Phillip Rauscher have been hired by Chow as position coaches at Hawaii. Powell, the Utes' defensive MVP at the 2003 Liberty Bowl, will oversee the defensive line for the Warriors.

"He's a fine young coach," Whittingham said while noting Powell is very energetic and well connected in the Polynesian community. "I think Lewis is going to make a very good Div. I coach."

Rauscher is Hawaii's new tight ends coach.

FOR THE RECORD: Utah running back John White IV has carried quite a load for the Utes this season — racking up 1,404 yards on 290 rushes. The junior college transfer is healthy again after suffering an ankle injury in last month's loss to Colorado. He's within striking distance of Carl Monroe's 1982 single-season school record of 1,507 yards.

"John has done an absolutely marvelous job," Chow said.

EXTRA POINTS: The 78th annual Sun Bowl will be the second meeting between Utah and Georgia Tech. The Utes defeated the Yellow Jackets, 38-10 in the 2005 Emerald Bowl. … Georgia Tech is making its 15th consecutive bowl appearance. Utah is bowling for the ninth straight year. … Hooked on a feeling? Singer B.J. Thomas will provide the halftime entertainment. … Both teams have been to the Sun Bowl once before. Utah defeated New Mexico, 26-0 here on Jan. 2, 1939, while Georgia Tech topped Texas Tech on Dec. 19, 1970.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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