Utah, Northwestern Have Mutual Respect For Each Other Ahead Of Bowl Matchup
Dec 22, 2023, 3:26 PM
LAS VEGAS – Utah and Northwestern are about to face off against each other for the second time in five years but seem to share a mutual respect for each other despite being competitors.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and Northwestern head coach David Baun had some nice things to say about each other’s programs and what they had to go through to make it to the Las Vegas Bowl in 2023.
Both programs faced their own unique circumstances in 2023, and both displayed toughness on and off the field in order to end the year with winning records and an opportunity to face each other again.
— Michelle Bodkin (@BodkinKSLsports) December 22, 2023
Two Teams, Two Different Adversities
Whittingham kicked the press conference off by acknowledging Utah’s familiarity with Las Vegas and the bowl game over the years and how great it is to be back again.
“Great to be here,” Whittingham said. “We’re no strangers to the Las Vegas Bowl; I think it’s (our sixth) trip here. We’re excited to have the opportunity to play a great Northwestern team. It should be a great matchup. It’s been a great week (in Las Vegas); the bowl does a great job here as far as planning events and having things for the players to do, opportunities to give back to the community, all that type of stuff. We’re elated to be here.”
Utah’s coach wrapped up his opening thoughts by acknowledging the hurdles both teams had to go through in 2023. The Utes dealt with a crazy number of season-ending injuries while Northwestern made headlines over the summer with a hazing scandal that saw their head coach fired before the season started.
“I’m proud of our team,” Whittingham said. “I know both teams faced a lot of adversity this year in their own ways. I’m proud of our guys for being able to get to where we are right now.”
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David Braun Has Admired Utah, Whittingham From Afar
Newly minted Northwestern head coach David Braun has noted a few times since the announcement was made his team will be facing the Utes in the Las Vegas Bowl, how much he’s admired what Utah has done and how Kyle Whittingham makes it happen.
“Incredible, formidable opponent we have an opportunity to go up against,” Braun said. “I’ve told people over and over again, over the course of the last couple of weeks- coach Whittingham and the Utah program is a program I have admired from afar for a long, long time. I’ve talked about their program in recruiting about being a model of what it can look like moving forward in a rapidly changing landscape of college football of creating a sustainable program built off of team football, built off of physicality, and fundamentals. All of the things that we’ve admired, and this program aspires to be and continue to be. It’s an incredible opportunity for our team to go up against and incredible opponent- tee it up tomorrow and compete our tails off. Hopefully, be able to put on full display what college football is supposed to look like.”
From Whittingham’s perspective, Northwestern is well on their way to being their own version of “Utah” as he noted some shared traits he sees between the two programs.
“Toughness. They are well-coached,” Whittingham said of the Wildcats. “The offensive line is impressive; I think that’s the basis of what they do on offense. It all starts up front. They do a great job with the offensive line; good quarterback, good running back, they have a receiver that’s caught a bunch of balls. Toughness on defense as well. You see a lot of similar traits between the two programs.”
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 X, Instagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports
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