In reflecting upon his career at the University of Utah, senior safety Joe Dale has three accomplishments he values most. His list includes beating BYU at home, the Sugar Bowl experience, and being named Defensive MVP of the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl win over Navy.
On Dec. 23, Dale and the Utes return to Qualcomm Stadium for another Poinsettia Bowl. They'll face California this time around.
"It's special to go and play in San Diego and the Poinsettia Bowl," Dale said when asked about going back to the game. "But that was then. I'm kind of looking forward now."
Even so, he acknowledged: "It's definitely special."
Dale had a special game against the Midshipmen, making a career-high 12 tackles en route to taking home the hardware.
"It was definitely a big deal," Dale said. "I didn't play much that season, and for me to get the chance to go out there and show what I can do was definitely a big thing for me."
Dale made a game-saving interception in the final minute as Utah held on for a 35-32 victory.
"Joe's been a valuable asset to our team. He's been instrumental to our success," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "That was a well-deserved award that he got there two years ago, and it'll be nice to see him come back and win it again. We'll see what happens."
FRIDAY IN THE FIELDHOUSE: Utah's fifth bowl practice was the first to focus on Cal. The scout team even wore jerseys decked out in the Golden Bears' colors.
"It's definitely nice. It gets kind of a spring ball feel out here when you don't have an opponent to prepare for and no film to watch. Guys start getting heated and tired of hitting each other," said senior left tackle Zane Beadles. "It's definitely nice to refocus, to know who we're playing, and run against the scout team and that kind of thing."
ALL-AMERICA HONORS: Beadles is understandably pleased to be named a second team All-America by the prestigious Walter Camp Football Foundation.
"Definitely that was cool. I've accomplished more here than I ever thought I would coming in," Beadles said. "That's a great honor and I was very happy to find that out."
WYNN'S FAN CLUB: Family and friends of Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn have already bought 70 tickets to the game. The freshman is from nearby Oceanside, Calif.
"It's going to be fun," he said. "I'll have my own little section. It should be cool."
"That doesn't surprise me," he said. "That's his home turf."
SAME, ONLY DIFFERENT: Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly's departure to Notre Dame has produced an emotional response from the Bearcats, who will face Florida in the Sugar Bowl without him.
The situation is somewhat similar to when Urban Meyer accepted the Gators' job when the Utes were gearing up for the Fiesta Bowl.
Whittingham, though, noted the dynamics were different because Meyer opted to stay on through the bowl game.
"I think every situation is different and circumstances are different," Whittingham said. "It's always tough when you invest a lot in the program and then you get an opportunity to go somewhere."
There's always some emotional attachment, he added, when a coach opts to move on.
"It's tough. It's tough to leave the players you've recruited," Whittingham said. "It's part of the deal. It's just part of the profession."
And yes, Whittingham has the changes that are going on at Notre Dame in the back of his mind. The Utes face the Irish in South Bend next November.
EXTRA POINTS: Utah's next practice is set for Saturday morning at the Spence Eccles Field House. ... The Utes will fly to California next Saturday. They'll hold their final bowl practices at San Diego State. ... The team will start to receive their bowl gifts next week.
No. 23 Utah (9-3) vs. California (8-4)
Dec. 23, 6 p.m.
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Radio: 700 AM