Bleeding Red: Plenty of holiday cheer for Utah fans

The holidays are not lean
On reasons for Utes to cheer
Volleyball made Sweet 16
With still more to come this year

COMMENTARY – The Proclaimers famously sang, “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door.” That is some serious devotion. We are about to see which Ute fans are devoted enough to travel more than a thousand miles to watch Utah play West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl the day after Christmas.

utesThe good news is that the Utes have extended their season and will be playing in their fourth straight bowl game. The bad news is that spending Christmas at home with your family and cheering Utah on in person the day after Christmas have essentially become mutually exclusive propositions. Thankfully, through the miracle of television and the internet, Ute fans can still enjoy the moment and support their team remotely.

The Heart of Dallas Bowl originated in 2011. “We’ve never played in the Heart of Dallas Bowl so this will be a new experience for our team,” remarked Kyle Whittingham. This will also mark the second time that Utah has played in the Cotton Bowl (the Utes beat SMU 21-17 in a non-conference game early in the 1996 season).

“We look forward to playing a quality opponent in West Virginia, which will make this game enticing for our fans,” noted Whittingham. The Mountaineers finished sixth in the Big 12 with a 7-5 record. In their only prior meeting, Utah beat West Virginia 32-6 in the 1964 Liberty Bowl (which is absolutely irrelevant for purposes of the current matchup, but for some reason the media just can’t help but to point out such facts). In any event, this should be a very winnable game for the Utes.

Kyle Whittingham and the Utah Utes are going bowling once again.

In large part, a bowl game is an end of season reward for the players and a nice send off for the seniors. When Utah was sitting at 4-4, Whittingham candidly acknowledged the shift in goals and post-season aspirations. “That’s a point of emphasis, and the goal right now is to make sure these players, these seniors, get the opportunity to play in a bowl game this year because they’ve done so much for our program.” Mission accomplished.

But there are many practical advantages to playing in a bowl game as well. For example, the extra practices basically equate to an extra spring ball camp. Similar to spring ball, this is a good opportunity to rest some of the veterans and let them heal up, and an excellent opportunity to work with the younger players and help them develop in preparation for next season.

Playing in a bowl game also assists with recruiting. Eleven players on the current roster hail from the Lone Star State. Whittingham is hoping to add a few more.

“Texas is a fertile recruiting territory for us and playing in Dallas offers a great opportunity to showcase our program in the state,” he said.

A bowl game for the football team is not the only present under the tree for Ute fans this holiday season.

The women’s volleyball team is already well into post-season play with two wins under their belt to propel them into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 and the third time in program history. Utah will be playing No. 2-ranked Texas in regional action this Friday in Maples Pavilion in Stanford, Calif.

Meanwhile, the Runnin’ Utes have started their season 6-1. They have two games this week. First up is a road game against Butler on Tuesday. Saturday is the Beehive Classic in the Vivint Smart Home Area, pitting Utah against Utah State in the early game at 5:30 pm, followed by BYU and Weber State in the late game.

The Lady Utes are also 6-1 out of the gates, and also have games on Tuesday and Saturday this week. Utah hosts Pepperdine on Tuesday, then goes on the road to play BYU on Saturday.

The Red Rocks are getting ready to unveil this season’s squad at the annual preview in the Huntsman Center on Friday, Dec. 15. The reigning Pac-12 champs are perennial fan favorites, winning 33 of 36 NCAA women’s gymnastics attendance titles and the proud owners of seven all-women’s sports attendance titles. This year should be no different with more than 9,000 season tickets already sold for a new school record.

Here’s hoping Ute fans have plenty to celebrate this holiday season with multiple teams giving fans a reason to cheer.

Bleeding Red is a sports column written by Dwayne Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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