The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
Print Issues

Bound for the Big Easy

By Christopher Kamrani, Asst. Sports Editor

Four years removed from stomping an out-of-place Pittsburgh team in the Fiesta Bowl, the Utes are back in the Bowl Championship Series. This time the go-around won’t be as easy.

No. 6 Utah was selected to play in the Sugar Bowl against No. 4 and 12-1 Alabama on Jan. 2 in New Orleans. The announcement came with most of the team surrounded by boosters at a bowl announcement party at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Sunday.

As head coach Kyle Whittingham stepped up to the podium to address the sea of red, he gave thanks to fans, assistant coaches and athletic director Chris Hill. The fourth-year head coach gave a special thanks to his 12-0 Utes, who received a standing ovation.
“Most of all, I’d like to thank our players, they’re the reason why we’re going to this bowl game,” Whittingham said.

After the crowd listened to 15 minutes of talk about Virginia Tech-Cincinnati in the Orange

Bowl, Fox’s BCS selection show returned from a commercial break around 6 p.m. and the Utah logo popped up under the Sugar Bowl heading alongside a giant question mark that eventually dissolved into the former-No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide’s logo. As soon as Utah’s opponent was announced, players such as Justin Taplin-Ross, David Reed and Matt Asiata embraced one another in excitement and shock.

Louisiana is foreign territory to most on the undefeated Utah squad, but Whittingham and senior wideout Brent Casteel both have connections to the Big Easy.

Whittingham spent four years living in New Orleans as a kid when his father, the late Fred Whittingham, played for the New Orleans Saints. Whittingham isn’t the only Ute to have ties to New Orleans.

“New Orleans is a great place to be,” Whittingham said. “Especially on New Year’s Eve.”

Senior wideout Brent Casteel has family in New Orleans and said he expects the showdown with the Tide to be epic.

“We’re very excited to be going to a big game like this, it’s the Sugar Bowl,” Casteel said. “What better way to try to go out 13-0?”

Casteel said he expects somewhere from 20 to 50 of his relatives to come to the Louisiana Superdome and called it a “very exciting time” in his life.

In terms of mileage, Alabama’s faithful will have an easier time traveling to the Bayou, but the thought did not faze Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year senior quarterback Brian Johnson.

“We’re very excited,” Johnson said. “It’s been a great, fun ride, but we still got one more game.”

The Crimson Tide is an SEC program that wins with a power running game and a stout defense. The Utes, who are No. 13 in the nation in rush defense, will prepare to go up against Alabama running back Glen Coffee, who has rushed for 1,347 yards this season and earned 10 touchdowns.

All-MWC defensive end Paul Kruger couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity to be on the national stage once again8212;and in a bigger light than ever.

“We’re going to be in the national spotlight and it’s just going to be an amazing deal, so we’re really excited,” Kruger said. “That’s what we take pride in, is stopping the run, so we’re very excited to be ready to exploit our talent.”

It should come as no surprise that the Utes are where they are today, based on the work ethic they put in all season and the leadership that took center stage in the big games. Whittingham spoke about going up against Michigan, the winningest football program in college football history, in the first game of the season and now taking on an Alabama program that has more bowl appearances than any other team with 56.

“You start off playing Michigan in the Big House and you finish playing in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama, I would say that’s a pretty good season,” Whittingham said.

Alabama had a chance to play in the national championship game before losing to Florida on Saturday in the SEC Championship game, 31-20. That ended the Crimson Tide’s 13-game winning streak, which was tied for the best in the nation. Coincidentally, Utah is now in sole possession of the best winning streak in the country.

It’s also no secret that the Utes are on a 7-0 bowl roll. MWC Special Teams Player of the Year Louie Sakoda reminded the Utah faithful of that Sunday night.

“Utah wins bowl games, that’s what we do,” Sakoda said. “We won’t disappoint.”

[email protected]

Erik Daenitz

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham takes the podium during the BCS selection party held Sunday in Rice-Eccles tower. The Utes accepted an invitation to play in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

We welcome feedback and dialogue from our community. However, when necessary, The Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to remove user comments. Posts may be removed for any of the following reasons: • Comments on a post that do not relate to the subject matter of the story • The use of obscene, threatening, defamatory, or harassing language • Comments advocating illegal activity • Posts violating copyrights or trademarks • Advertisement or promotion of commercial products, services, entities, or individuals • Duplicative comments by the same user. In the case of identical comments only the first submission will be posted. Users who habitually post comments or content that must be removed can be blocked from the comment section.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *