After a 6-0 start and climbing all the way to #3 in the national rankings, there was mixed reaction from Utah football players about being selected to play in the Las Vegas Bowl against BYU.
Utah controlled its destiny heading into its ninth game, but was unable to secure the Pac-12 South division. Utah slipped to the sixth-place Pac-12 bowl affiliation, due in part to UCLA and Washington State being selected ahead of Utah.
“We can’t control what the bowl committee does,” said Utah linebacker Gionni Paul. “We were just thinking deep down inside, we were wishing for another team, you know. We weren’t thinking we were going to play BYU. It’s just like Washington State playing Washington in a bowl game. We would want something different. But once we got in the mood, we were like ‘man, playing BYU in our last game, what could be better?'”
Overall team reaction seemed initially mum, but after considering the opportunity, the Utes seem ready for the challenge. Paul knows this is a monumental game for the state of Utah. “Even if I have to put my body on the line, even if I have to put my team on my back, that’s the type of person I am,” Paul said. “We’re not losing this game. We’re going to win…I just feel deep down inside that we’re going to win this game.”
Utes kicker Andy Phillips thinks Utah could have deserved a different bowl destination, but they’ll play whoever is in front of them. “I think we understand it’s a business,” Phillips said. “It’s a great opportunity for them [BYU] and a great opportunity for us. I’m not too disappointed. There’s a positive vibe from the team. It’s always nice to get that national recognition of course, but we’ll play with a chip on our shoulder.”
Without the bowl selection, Paul wouldn’t have ever had a chance to play the Cougars. He set a goal to get a pair of interceptions from BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum. “I feel like I can get two on him. He’s very good. He’s a good quarterback. But I think I can sneak two in there.”
Gionni Paul Interview:
Andy Phillips Interview:
Travis Wilson Interview:
Subscribe to ESPN700's News!
Get the latest sports news, contests and flyaways, and more straight to your inbox with our weekly emails.