Santa Clara, Calif. • In his desire to answer, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham sometimes breaks a question. It happened Friday…
Santa Clara, Calif. • In his desire to answer, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham sometimes breaks a question.
It happened Friday night when someone mentioned how the former losers of the Pac-12 championship game have never won their bowling games during the seven seasons. Whittingham’s immediate answer: “We shall not show up?”
“They’ve got to go from many things this season,” said Whittingham, sure his team would do it again.
The question to answer Sunday afternoon is where Utes will be sent and how far they can fall in Pac-1
2’s bowl structure.
The first clue comes at 13 MST, when New Year’s six moods are announced. If Washington State (10-2) is not included in any of these games, Alamo Bowl will likely choose Cougars over Utah (9-4) as Pac-12 contestants in San Antonio. Then comes the Holiday Bowl election: Oregon (8-4) or Utah?
Oregland’s national brand is strong, and the ducks have junior quarterback Justin Herbert, potentially number one in the NFL draft. Oregon appeared last year in San Diego 2008.
Utah would also be a novelty with which athletic director Mark Harlan labeled “A Compelling History” about a team that earned its first Pac-12 South title and took a big succession to Northern California for Friday’s game. San Diego is within driving distance of Utah’s.
If the Holiday Bowl takes Oregon, the Santa Clara-based Redbox Bowl would probably pass over Utes, as they only played there. Utah would then land in the sunshade of El Paso, Texas. Pac-12’s No. 5 bowl site (vs. an Atlantic Coast Conference team) would be the lowest ever for the championship losers.
Whatever the destination, Whittingham already pitching the opportunity for a 10th win as motivation. Utes will have time to re-group after playing 10 straight weeks since its day in mid-September.
“I’ll do what I can to gather these guys and go to the top,” says senior offensive Jackson Jackson.
It will be a challenge for both the team and the fan base after Rose Bowl was in his sights. “We were so close, but we let it go,” said Barton. “That’s all that can be said about it.”
College locker rooms are usually closed after regular season games, but often open to media after conference title games and bowls. As Barton talked half an hour after Friday’s game, Utes still had pants on pants and waited for the clothes room to be cleaned.
Utah receiver Siaosi Mariner sat down with his head and treated the two most memorable game gigs – both involving Washington cornerback Byron Murphy. In the third quarter, Mariner passed hands and legs, popped into the air and was intercepted by Murphy, who returned the ball 66 meters for the game’s only touchdown.
The game’s last pass was also intended for Mariner, who was struck by Murphy before the ball arrived. But no flag was thrown for abuse, which led to Whittingham’s angry protest when the officials left the field.
Who knows what might have happened next. A penalty would have given Ut’s ball at the 27-yard line in Washington with 27 seconds left after they had taken a long time to drive from their 7. It was difficult to beat a band one night when Utes reached 188 yards, but they will always wish they had another chance.
Young players are already talking about being driven to come back to Santa Clara in 2019, when Utes will be many observers’ favorites to repeat in the south. It is a discussion for January and the seven months to be followed.
The current question is how Utes will respond to what is happening at the end of December, with the possibility of another closure on Sunday when the bowls make their pickings.