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It’s off to big D to play Utah for Mountaineers

By Staff | Dec 8, 2017

Bob Madison For the Chronicle The Heart of Dallas Bowl won’t be played with Jerry Jones smiling in his living room at AT&T Stadium. Instead, it’s in the Cotton Bowl on the grounds of the Texas State Fair, the site of the Oklahoma vs. Texas match staged annually in October.

The 1:30 p.m. start time at the outdoor stadium comes on Dec. 26 and has West Virginia playing Utah of the Pac-12 Conference. West Virginia finished with a 7-5 record while the Utes were 6-6 after closing with a win over Colorado to become bowl eligible.

Will the weather cooperate with the planned outdoor festivities? Or will it be too cold or too snowy to be enjoyable?

Each team receives $1.2 million for their participation. One of many bowl games aired by ESPN, the Heart of Dallas Bowl will showcase first responders (firefighters, police and EMS personnel) throughout the afternoon.

With football history seeping from every nook and cranny in the 92,100-seat Cotton Bowl, this yearás game might fill half that many pews for the WVU vs. Utah match.

With quarterback Will Grier likely to miss this game, West Virginia’s light was dimmed and the Mountaineers weren’t selected by either the Liberty Bowl (Iowa State) in Memphis, or the Cactus Bowl (Kansas State) in Phoenix in the pecking order of bowls with ties to the Big 12 Conference.

Utah began its season with four straight wins, but then lost four straight times. The Utes had close losses to Stanford (23-20), Washington (33-30) and Southern Cal (28-27).

The Mountaineers found themselves at 7-3 after close wins over Iowa State and Kansas State, but lost to Texas and Oklahoma in their last two games.

One bit of bowl history that involves the Mountaineers and Utes came in 1964 when the Liberty Bowl was played for the only time in Atlantic City, New Jersey. That late December afternoon in the Jersey Shore city saw West Virginia lose, 32-6, to the Utes inside the walls of the Convention Hall, a building made famous as the host of the annual Miss America pageant. The Liberty Bowl moved on to Memphis the next season after originally being staged in Philadelphia. Only 6,000 people attended in 1964, seated along the sides of the realigned grass playing surface.

This bowl will be Coach Dana Holgorsen’s sixth in his seven seasons as leader of the Mountaineers.

Chris Chugunov will most likely replace the injured Grier as quarterback. Chugunov played the last three quarters in the loss in Morgantown to Texas and then at Oklahoma in a 59-31 loss to the Sooners.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jones will probably be elsewhere when the game kicks off at about 1:30 p.m. He has other fish to fry; his billion-dollar football palace won’t see the Mountaineers or the Utes.

For West Virginia, playing in a bowl is reward enough for a season that could be told in the up-and-down, valley-to-hilltop style of a modern-day roller coaster.

The Cotton Bowl has a lot of history. Dallas is a city with many attractions and a much-chronicled nightlife for those interested in something more than “Let’s Go, Mountaineers” chants and high-fives with neighbors after touchdowns.