It’s an opportunity for our team to play another game and it’s great for the young guys in the program, the developmental guys, to get extra practices. So there’s a lot of positives attached to it. —Utah coach Kyle Whittingham
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has accepted an invitation to play in the Foster Farms Bowl. The 19th-ranked Utes (8-4) will face Indiana (6-6) on Dec. 28 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. — home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.
“It should be a great destination for our players, for our fans,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who added that Indiana is a very good opponent.
It’ll be the third meeting between the teams and first since 2001 when the Utes prevailed 40-13 to take a 2-1 advantage in the all-time series.
“We’re excited, said Whittingham, owner of an NCAA-best 9-1 record in bowl outings. “It’s an opportunity for our team to play another game and it’s great for the young guys in the program, the developmental guys, to get extra practices. So there’s a lot of positives attached to it.”
Senior defensive end Hunter Dimick is looking forward to a change of scenery in his final game with the Utes. They played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2014 and 2015.
“I’m excited for the new opportunity,” Dimick said. “Vegas has been absolutely phenomenal the last two years but everybody was ready for something new and we’re excited for it.”
Even so, there is some familiarity associated with it. The Foster Farms Bowl will be Utah’s third game this season in the Bay Area. The Utes played at San Jose State on Sept. 17 and at California on Oct. 1.
Whittingham noted that it’s right in the program’s recruiting footprint. Besides that, it’s a chance for Utah to put the pain of season-ending losses to Oregon and Colorado in the rear-view mirror.
Senior offensive lineman Isaac Asiata acknowledged that guys were ticked off and getting after it last week in weightlifting sessions while awaiting the bowl destination.
“They’re ready to play again,” he said. “They’re ready to put pads back on and take those two-game frustrations out against somebody else and win a game.”
Whittingham noted that bowl practices will likely begin Friday.
Indiana, which went 6-6 overall and 4-5 in Big Ten play, is in the midst of some turmoil. Head coach Kevin Wilson resigned at season’s end amidst allegations of mistreating players. Defensive coordinator Tom Allen was promoted to the top post last Thursday.
“We’re excited to be able to go to the Foster Farms Bowl in California to play the Utah Utes,” Allen said in Indiana’s acceptance announcement. “It’s a great opportunity for us to match up against another great conference in this country in the Pac-12 and play one of their better teams. The Hoosiers are fired up to be heading west.”
Utah will be playing in its 20th bowl game. Previous appearances include the Sun Bowl (1939, 2011), Liberty Bowl (1964, 2003), Copper Bowl (1992, 1996), Freedom Bowl (1993, 1994), Las Vegas Bowl (1999, 2001, 2010, 2014, 2015), Fiesta Bowl (Jan., 2005), Emerald Bowl (2005), Armed Forces Bowl (2006), Poinsettia Bowl (2007, 2009) and Sugar Bowl (Jan., 2009).
Indiana Hoosiers at a glance
Record: 6-6, 4-5
Head coach: Tom Allen (0-0 overall, took over Dec. 1 for Kevin Wilson, who resigned).
Offense: Junior quarterback Richard Lagow passed for 3,174 yards with 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions this season. Junior running back Devine Redding rushed for 1,050 yards.
Defense: Junior linebacker Tegray Scales leads the Big Ten Conference with 116 tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss. He leads the nation with 87 solo stops.
Special teams: Kicker Griffin Oakes has put a team-high 75 points on the board. The junior has made 15 field goals and missed nine this season.
Series with Utah: Utes lead 2-1.