WVU heading back to Texas

Mountaineers to face Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl

MORGANTOWN — Once again it would appear as if the Big 12 Conference will ask West Virginia fans to spend a lot of money if they want to see their Mountaineers play in the postseason as Iowa State was selected to take on No. 20 Memphis in the Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee.

Instead fans of the Old Gold and Blue will be asked to spend their Christmas holiday back in the state of Texas as WVU (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) has been matched up with Pac-12 member Utah in the Xaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 26.

The game will be televised on ESPN.

This will mark the Mountaineers’ third trip to the Lone Star state — WVU suffered a 31-24 setback to No. 15 TCU, but held on to beat Baylor 38-36.

Utah compiled an overall 6-6 mark and finished fifth in the Pac-10 South Division. The game will be played in the Cotton Bowl.

The bowl matchup will be the second time the Utes and Mountaineers have played each other, and the second in a bowl setting.

Utah became bowl eligible in the final game of the regular season when the Utes beat Colorado 34-13 at home. Sophomore running back Zack Moss led the way with 196 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

The Mountaineers finished with a 7-5, 5-4 record comes into the game winning only two of its last five games to finish the regular season and without one of its top weapons – junior quarterback Will Grier.

Grier, who threw for more than 3,400 yards and 34 touchdowns, broke the middle finger on his throwing hand while trying to score on a third-and-goal run in a 28-14 loss to Texas.

The last time the Utes and Mountaineers faced one another in the postseason was in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 19, 1964. Utah went on to win the game by a 32-6 score.

Like WVU, Utah was battered by injuries for much of the season and head coach Kyle Whittingham said following the Colorado game that he was hopeful the short break would give many of his players time to heal up before the bowl – most notably, quarterback Tyler Huntley and defensive end Kylie Fitts.

The upcoming bowl will be the sixth in seven years for WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen and the 12th for Whittingham, who currently holds college football’s best bowl-winning percentage (with more than 10 bowl appearances) at 90.9 percent. Whittingham’s only bowl loss as a head coach came in 2010 at the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.

“We’re extremely excited to announce West Virginia and Utah as the two programs playing in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl this year,” Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl executive director Brant B. Ringler said.

“Congratulations to both the Mountaineers and Utes for their outstanding seasons. This promises to be a great matchup at historic Cotton Bowl Stadium. Fans from both programs are in for a special time in Dallas.”

West Virginia is headed to a bowl game for the 36th time in its proud history. The Mountaineers are playing in their first Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl. This will be the fifth time West Virginia plays a bowl game in Texas, and the first in 30 years. The Mountaineers’ five previous bowl visits to the Lone Star State were the Sun Bowl three times (1937, 1948 and 1987) and the Bluebonnet Bowl (1984).??Dana Holgorsen is in his seventh season as the head coach at West Virginia, leading the Mountaineers to six bowl games, including the last four years. Holgorsen is 53-36 overall at West Virginia and 2-3 in bowl games.

Contact Jim Butta via email at mountaineersman@outlook.com