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Utah football: Utes begin Sun Bowl practice

Published December 9, 2011 11:35 pm

Football • Team opens practice for Sun Bowl with strong effort — but without John White.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Losing to Colorado in the last game of the regular season was a bad enough experience for the Utes. Now, the last thing they want to do is let that disappointing result lead to another loss, which is why they opened their bowl practice Thursday with a strong effort they hope will set the tone until their Dec. 31 game against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

"We know what we did wrong in the game against Colorado," linebacker Chaz Walker said. "We can't fix that, it is over, but we can take it out on the Yellow Jackets."

The Utes, whose four-game winning streak and hopes of playing in the Pac-12 title game were dashed with the upset to the Buffs, said having nearly two weeks off since that game has helped them refocus.

"Ten days of rest, we got a lot of school work done," receiver DeVonte Christopher said. "It was all good, though; guys got time to rest from injuries and stuff and it's all about Georgia Tech right now."

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the team has discussed keeping the focus on the Yellow Jackets, but said he isn't too concerned they wouldn't do so in the first place.

"This team is resilient," he said. "To go 0-4 out of the gate [in conference play] and to win four of the next five, that speaks of the resilience and mental toughness of this team."

Running back John White, who left the Colorado game early with an ankle injury, didn't participate in Thursday's practice but is expected to be ready for the game.

"We expect him to be 100 percent," Whittingham said. "If we had to play him today, he couldn't go, but he has made significant progress, and the game is still three weeks out so we feel like he'll be ready to go."

White, who needs 103 yards in the bowl game to tie the school record of 1,507 yards set by Carl Monroe in 1982, said he is eager to get back on the field but understands why the Utes are being cautious with him.

"I feel like it has been a long time since I have played," he said. "I feel like I should be out there spotting the ball or doing something. But I'll be OK."

Much of Utah's offensive success in the second half of the season was due to White's ability to run the game. However, they will face a team in Georgia Tech that loves the run even more than they do.

The Yellow Jackets are coached by Paul Johnson, a guy Whittingham said was one of the "gurus" of the triple option.

The Utes thought they were done preparing with the scheme when they left the MWC and Air Force behind, but the Yellow Jackets average 316 yards on the ground with the scheme.

"Last year, Kalani [Sitake, defensive coordinator] and I looked at each other and said at least we don't have to play Air Force again, and here we are right out of the gate in the bowl season, back at it," Whittingham said. "We faced it every year, but that will help us." —

2011 Sun Bowl facts

P Matchup • Pac 12 No. 4 vs. ACC No. 4

Kickoff • Dec. 31, noon MST

Location • Sun Bowl Stadium, University of Texas at El Paso (Sun Bowl Stadium opened in 1963, seating capacity of 51,500)

TV • Ch. 2

Tickets • Range from $15 to $150

Payout • $4 million