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LAS VEGAS — A welcome reception at the Hard Rock Café and tickets to Mystere by Cirque Du Soleil kick off Utah's trip to MAACO Bowl Las Vegas today.

The Utes, who practiced at UNLV Saturday, are in full bowl mode as Wednesday's game with Boise State approaches.

"It's a reward. It's fun. We tell our players in bowl situations that we are there for two reasons," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "First of all, to win the game. Obviously that's the primary reason. But you want to have a good time while you're there, enjoy everything the bowl has to offer."

Aside from today's activities, the Utes are scheduled to visit a children's hospital, eat at the Outback Buffet Bowl, attend a kickoff luncheon with guest speaker Herm Edwards and participate in a pep rally at the Fremont Street Experience before game day rolls around.

"There are a lot of functions with the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl that we are going to be able to attend and that's part of it," Whittingham said. "But you can never let your mind drift too far away from the task at hand."

Even so, he added, you still want to enjoy yourself.

"That's what a bowl experience is all about," Whittingham explained.

Getting to Vegas after weeks of practice in Utah has amped up the excitement.

"It makes it more real," said quarterback Terrance Cain. "We still have to practice. We still have work to do. But being at the actual bowl site, it lets you know you're getting close to the game."

It's obviously a bit of a balancing act.

"We're going to play Boise but at the same time we are going to have fun," said running back Matt Asiata. "I'm just really excited. I can't wait to play. I'm pumped up. I hope the team will follow in my footsteps (as a captain) and just get ready for Boise."

Fellow senior Caleb Schlauderaff has similar thoughts.

"I'm excited. Vegas is a great place, and it's a great bowl game," said the offensive lineman. "It'll be fun to go down there, go out with the seniors and try to get a win."

Same goes for the pomp and circumstance, like seeing Mystere by Cirque Du Soleil.

"It sounds like a blast to me," Schlauderaff said.

Schlauderaff's only previous trip to Las Vegas was with his roommates who were on a $50 budget. It took just 20 minutes for one of the casinos to take that off their hands.

"So this will be nice to go down with the team and actually see some of Vegas," Schlauderaff said.

It's part of the fun, he added.

"You get to go out and spend a little time with the other seniors," Schlauderaff explained. "We spend a lot of time in football and it's nice to get out of the football realm and get to see people just on a normal level."

Viva, Las Vegas!

Utah's schedule


4-6 p.m. — Welcome Reception at the Hard Rock Cafe

7-9 p.m. — Mystere by Cirque Du Soleil at Treasure Island


9-10 a.m. — Goodie Two Shoes Foundation at UNLV's Lied Athletic Center

10-11 a.m. — Summerlin Hospital visit

Afternoon — Practice at UNLV

6-7 p.m. — Outback Buffet Bowl at Fremont Street


11 a.m. — Press Conference at Las Vegas Convention Center.

12-1 p.m. — Kickoff Luncheon (Herm Edwards, speaker) at Las Vegas Convention Center

4:30-5:30 p.m. — Walk through at Sam Boyd Stadium

6-7 p.m. — Pep rally at Fremont Street Experience


2:20 p.m. — Depart for Stadium

2:45 p.m. — Arrive at Stadium

5:06 p.m. — Kickoff vs. Boise State

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas gifts

Players get "seven points" to use in any combination on the following:

ONE POINT: Sony Gliq Bass Headphones, Sony PC Computer Speakers, Sony FM Clock Radio, Sony noise canceling headphones, Majestic Major League Baseball fleece, Pullover with embroidered bowl logo.

TWO POINTS: Sony Speaker Dock & Clock Radio, Sony 90 percent noise canceling headphones, Ogio portable locker room with embroidered bowl logo, Audivox personal GPS locator.

THREE POINTS: Sony mini Hi-Fi music system, Sony wireless Bluetooth headset, Sony multi-function clock radio, Ogio rolling duffel bag with embroidered bowl logo, Sony 12 megapixil digital camera with case and 2GB memory stick..

FOUR POINTS: Sony stereo bluetooth headset with remote control earpiece, Sony blu-ray disc player in full HD 1080p. 3D ready, Sony personal Internet viewer, ZVOX single cabinet surround sound system, Sony floor standing speakers, Sony Bloggie touch screen.

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FIVE POINTS: Sony portable speaker dock, Sony virtual 5.1 sound bar, Sony 5..1-channel Bravia surround sound system with built-in DVD player, Sony PSP with two games, Xbox 360.

SIX POINTS: Sony home theatre system, Nintendo Wii with two games, Sharp 22-inch HD flat screen television, Columbia Silver Ridge 21-speed mountain bike, Lane oversize recliner, Sony 4GB Handycam camcorder/case.

SEVEN POINTS: Dell Inspiron Netbook, Zvox single cabinet five-speaker surround sound system, Sony 3D Sweep camera bundle with case & 4GB memory stick, Sony 16GB Handycam camcorder and case, Toshiba 32-inch TV LCD HDTV.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com