Utah and California will meet for just the 7th time in history when they face-off in the 5th annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The game will kickoff on Wednesday, December 23rd at 8 p.m. ET at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
"With the Utes and Golden Bears, I think it’s safe to expect that we’re in for one heck of a ball game," said 2009 Bowl President Barbara Warden.
Head Coach Kyle Whittingham leads the Utes into San Diego with a 9-3 overall record, 6-2 in the Mountain West Conference. This year’s bowl game will be Utah’s seventh straight bowl appearance, including a 35-32 victory over the Navy Midshipmen in the 2007 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
Whittingham says, "We have around 25 players on our roster from Southern California and we hope for a big turnout from our fans. Cal is a formidable opponent and one we look forward to playing. We like playing Pac-10 teams and we anticipate a great game."
Utah is led on offense by two-time first-team all-conference tackle Zane Beadles and the first 1,000 rushing-receiving tandem at Utah in 18 years. Running back Eddie Wide (1,032 yards) and receiver David Reed (1,085 yards) joined Beadles on the 2009 all-MWC first team.
Utah’s defense ranks in the top 25 nationally in pass efficiency defense (No. 9), pass defense (No. 13), total defense (No. 19) and scoring defense (No. 22). The Utes, who allow just 19.7 point per game, are led by three first-team all-MWC defenders: end Koa Misi (65 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles), linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (73 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and free safety Robert Johnson (66 tackles, 5 interceptions, 4 pass breakups, 4.0 TFL, 2 touchdowns).
Head Coach Jeff Tedford brings his Golden Bears to San Diego after finishing the regular season with an 8-4 overall record, 5-4 in the Pac-10.
"We are looking forward to playing a quality opponent from the Mountain West Conference," Tedford said.
Cal will run its school-record string of consecutive bowl appearances to seven, have a current school-record string of four straight bowl victories, and have won five-of-six bowls under head coach Jeff Tedford.
The 2009 squad featured the tailback tandem of Jahvid Best (867 yards) and Shane Vereen (830 yards) although Best has not played or practiced since being injured against Oregon State on Nov. 7 and he will not play in the Poinsettia Bowl. Quarterback Kevin Riley has put together a solid season as the starter in all 12 games, passing for career highs of 2,636 yards and 17 touchdowns. Riley’s favorite target has been wide receiver Marvin Jones (38-607-6).
Linebacker Mike Mohamed has been the team’s top defensive player and is the Pac-10’s leading tackler with an average of 8.8 per game and a total of 105 stops, while defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (60 tackles) leads the team in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (10.0) and is expected to be a high pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
Cal holds a 4-2 edge over Utah in a series that dates back to 1920. The last time they played each other was in 2003 when the Utes topped the Golden Bears 31-24 in Salt Lake City.