Utah Is Riding A Rose Bowl High
SALT LAKE CITY- Often, when a team has been there, and done that, enthusiasm for accomplishments wears off. This is not the case for Utah football and their impending second trip in a row to the Rose Bowl. Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan joined Unrivaled Thursday afternoon to discuss the Rose Bowl high the Utes are riding as well as a myriad of other topics. Bottom line, it’s never been a better time to be a Ute.
Utah’s Rose Bowl High
One of the more impressive aspects of Utah’s wave of success according to Harlan has been the fans’ enthusiasm to continually show up for their team. He says the Utes showed really well once again at the Pac-12 Championship despite a quicker turnaround than the year before.
“It’s been a really exciting week,” Harlan said. “The moment we realized we were going to the Pac-12 Championship, that began a flurry of events to make sure that we were ready to go and get as many folks in there as we could. I was so impressed with our fans showing up and showing out. We definitely had more fans than the other team did without question in my mind, and it helped us win.”
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From a marketing and brand-development side, Harlan notes Utah is in a very historic moment for the program. Winning back-to-back titles and going back to the Rose Bowl are no easy feats. Especially when you consider despite all of Utah’s success, they are still working with less than a lot of their competitors, making it important to highlight having the right people in place both coaching and player-wise matters.
“It’s just another historic moment- back-to-back championships and heading to the Rose Bowl for the football program is a remarkable feat,” Harlan said. “It is so hard to do, so hard to do. To do it again within a year is just an unbelievable example of the kind of student-athletes we have in our football program and of course incredible leader in Kyle Whittingham.”
That same enthusiasm has now trickled into a second-straight trip to the Rose Bowl where Harlan says the Athletic Department is working on securing more tickets so fans can be present. Not only is Utah pleased with this development, but so is the Rose Bowl.
“We are just about through our allotment, we’re getting more tickets from the Rose Bowl,” Harlan said. “They are thrilled. They have seen repeat teams come back and not necessarily see that kind of momentum, but we are seeing that here. Of course, I’m not surprised. We know how our folks roll.”
Building Enthusiasm From The Players Too
Earlier in the week media had the opportunity to talk with some of the players in the aftermath of their repeat Pac-12 Title and Rose Bowl berth and the excitement was palpable.
“It feels great to win the championship for one and then to be back in the Rose Bowl, man, it’s such a prestigious bowl,” safety R.J. Hubert said. “We’re happy to be there and be a part of the fourth New Year’s Six Bowl Game in this program’s history. It’s a blessing to be there and we want to win this thing.”
Utah quarterback Cam Rising acknowledges it’s a great feeling to be back where the team was a year ago despite the twists and turns to make it happen.
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“I’m just happy to be a part of this team,” Rising said. “It’s been a crazy journey to get here, and we’re excited to go to the Rose Bowl now.”
In a lot of ways, last year Utah was just happy to have even made it to the Rose Bowl. This year the mentality feels a little different as running back Ja’Quinden Jackson described.
“We are here now, we might as well win it,” Jackson said. “That’s our mindset, just go out there, play hard and like you said, there are a lot of guys who won’t be here next year. We are going to play every quarter, every minute, every second, every down for those guys. That’s just what we are going to do.”
Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports
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