Utah Will Look For A Strong Offensive Performance In Holiday Bowl

Dec 27, 2018, 6:00 PM
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley runs in for a touchdown against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturd...
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley runs in for a touchdown against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (Holli Joyce, KSL.com)
(Holli Joyce, KSL.com)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – After an extended break from playing, the No. 17 Utah Utes will return to the gridiron for the first time since their loss in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game.

They’ll face No. 22 Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl Monday night in San Diego, Calif.

In a matchup of two top 25 teams, the game is sure to feature interesting matchups and storylines on both sides of the field.

Looking At The Wildcats

For the Utes, going to a bowl game is nothing new. Their upcoming appearance in the Holiday Bowl is their fifth straight in a bowl game, and their 12th in 14 seasons with head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Getting to a bowl game has become more and more common for the Wildcats, who under head coach Pat Fitzgerald have been to three straight bowls and eight in the 12 years with Fitzgerald at the helm. But prior to this current golden age of Northwestern football, the Wildcats had only been to six bowl games since the program’s inception in 1882. They went 64 years without a bowl win after taking the 1949 Rose Bowl.

Northwestern’s 2018 season was kind of a mixed bag. The Wildcats suffered a three-game losing streak in the beginning portion of the season and then later enjoyed a four-game winning streak to finish first in the Big Ten West division. They lost to Ohio State in the conference championship game, 45-24.

Utes’ Offense Will Be Key

For Utah to thrive on the Holiday Bowl stage, they’ll have to look to get on the board fast and frequently.

Northwestern does not boast a powerful offense. The Wildcats will prefer to play in a close defensive battle. They broke the 30-point barrier only twice in the season, the first in a 31-27 win over Purdue and the second in a 31-17 win over Wisconsin. Utah, by comparison, scored over 30 points seven times on the season.

Most recently, Utah struggled to find the end zone in a 10-3 loss to Washington in the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game. They were however, without the services of quarterback Tyler Huntley, who is expected to return for the Holiday Bowl after nursing a broken collarbone. In his absence, the offense played well under Jason Shelley in a wins over BYU and Colorado, but stalled in the big game for a Rose Bowl bid against the Huskies.

While Huntley will be returning, the Utes suffered a major loss on offense with an ACL injury to wide receiver and return man Britain Covey. The first-team All-Pac-12 return specialist announced on Twitter that he suffered the injury in the conference championship game. It is not known how long he’ll be out, but he’ll definitely miss the Holiday Bowl.

Broadcast Info

The Holiday Bowl will kick off Monday, January 31 at 5 p.m. on ESPN.

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