LAS VEGAS — BYU (9-3) will face No. 22 Utah (9-3) in the 2015 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, executive director John Saccenti announced Sunday.
The two in-state rivals will meet for the first time in a bowl game when they take the field at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 12:30 p.m. PT (1:30 p.m. MT). The game will be broadcast live nationally on ABC.
BYU secured its bid last week and Utah was selected Sunday to be the Cougars opponent. The announcement comes on the heels of BYU finding out it lost its head coach, Bronco Mendenhall, to the University of Virginia. BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said his school will allow Mendenhall to coach the team in the upcoming bowl, which means, win or lose, it will be the final legacy for the BYU coach of 11 years.
“We are looking forward to this unique opportunity of playing against a rival like Utah in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl,” Mendenhall said. “This will be the first time this rivalry game has taken place in a bowl setting so it has some historic significance as well as being a great matchup between two teams that have had outstanding seasons. This will be our 11th straight bowl game and I’m definitely looking forward to coaching this team one last time as we take the field in Las Vegas striving to achieve our 10th win of the season.”
The Las Vegas Bowl matchup renews a rivalry that was not scheduled the past two regular seasons and will pit the Cougars and Utes against each other for the 90th time in a series that began in 1922. Utah leads the overall series 54-31-4 and won the last contest by a 20-13 tally in Provo in 2013. BYU and Utah are scheduled to resume their regular-season series again next season in Salt Lake City.
Utah will make its fifth Las Vegas Bowl appearance and its second straight. The Utes defeated Colorado State 45-10 in the 2014 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl and are 3-1 all-time in Las Vegas Bowl games.
“After being nationally ranked since the second week of the season and finishing as co-champion of the Pac-12 South Division, we are looking forward to our ninth bowl game in the last 11 seasons,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. Las Vegas is a great destination for our fans and the bowl organizers work hard to make it a memorable experience for the players,”
Added Director of Athletics Dr. Chris Hill, “This has been our best season as members of the Pac-12 and we are pleased at the opportunity to play one more game. Through our past experience, we know that the people involved with the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl will provide a wonderful experience for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
The game, which will be televised on ABC, should feature a packed house, given the close proximity of Las Vegas to both Salt Lake City (410 miles) and Provo (371 miles).
“We are excited to be returning to Las Vegas to play in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl,” Holmoe said. “BYU–Utah is one of the great rivalries in college football. Playing each other for the first time in a bowl game should add a unique chapter to our storied history.”
The 2015 Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl will be the Cougars sixth trip to the Las Vegas Bowl. BYU has a 3-2 record in the Las Vegas Bowl, with five straight sellouts at Sam Boyd Stadium from 2005-09. BYU’s last appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl was a 44-20 victory over No. 16 Oregon State in 2009.
The Cougars have advanced to 11 straight bowl games, one of only 11 programs in the country to do so. BYU is 6-4 in its bowl games under Mendenhall, who will be leaving BYU following the game to take the head coaching position at the University of Virginia. Mendenhall has a chance to equal legendary coach LaVell Edwards’ seven bowl wins with a victory against Utah.
BYU will be appearing in its 34th bowl game overall since its first bowl invitation in 1974, with an overall record of 13-19-1. BYU posted a 9-3 regular-season record as an independent in 2015 while Utah achieved a 9-3 overall record and 6-3 mark in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl is one of 13 college bowl games owned and operated by ESPN Events, a division of ESPN.
Note: This story was compiled from staff and wire reports.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.