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The Front Row with JASON ELLIOTT December 19, 2010

| December 19, 2010 8:00 PM

When Dale Nosworthy heard that Boise State and Utah were matched up in a bowl game this year - the MAACO Bowl on Wednesday in Las Vegas, "I felt sorry for both of them," the former Utah tight end and co-owner of Nosworthy's Hall of Fame restaurant in Coeur d'Alene said.

"The Utes for having to play Boise State, and Boise State probably should have gotten a bigger matchup," he said.

Dale also knew he'd hear about it from his son, Kelly, a former Coeur d'Alene High and Boise State football player, and co-owner of the popular restaurant with his dad.

"The kid's telling me we're going to get our (butt) kicked," Dale said.

Boise State is a 17-point favorite over Utah, which has won nine straight bowl games but whose profile took a hit late in the season following big losses to TCU and Notre Dame.

AND, DEPENDING on Boise State's level of motivation, the Broncos (sans junior linebacker Byron Hout from Lake City, who will miss the game with a broken foot suffered against Idaho) will either be looking to put a hurtin' on somebody after not making it to a BCS game, or still in a fog after its dreams of an undefeated season were ended three weeks ago by Nevada.

"I talked to one of my Ute buddies who is an assistant coach, and he doesn't find too many weaknesses," Dale said.

Plus, Boise State thought Utah was going to be one of its main rivals when it joined the Mountain West Conference in 2011. However, not only did Utah opt to leave the Mountain West and join the Pac-10 Conference in 2011, the Utes paid to get out of a three-game series with Boise State, signed back when they were still in different conferences.

The Utes figured their schedule was going to be tough enough with the nine Pac-10 foes on it.

WHAT'S FUNNY is Dale remembers being recruited to Utah out of high school in California, sitting in Utes coach Mike Giddings' office with Giddings and Utah assistant Jim Hanifan, with whom Nosworthy remains close to this day.

“He (Hanifan) remembers Giddings talking about Utah being the next big deal,” Dale said of that meeting in the 1960s. “Who knew it would take 40 years to get there.”

Nosworthy said he thought the Mountain West would have been a great mix if Utah, BYU (going independent) and TCU (headed to the Big East), had stayed, but noted Utah’s strength in academics makes the Utes a good fit for the Pac-10.

“But their fans better get used to 7-5 and 6-6 for a few seasons,” Dale added. “But if they can keep (coach Kyle) Whittingham and that staff there ... ”

Dale says Utah has a chance, “if the Utes can play defense, and get after (quarterback Kellen) Moore, and if we can run the ball. I think we match up speed for speed.”

DALE AND KELLY had hoped to travel to Las Vegas and watch the game in person. But due to an illness in the family, Kelly will be watching the game, ironically, on television in Salt Lake City.

A Boise State fan in Ute country.

Kelly has asked his dad to borrow a Utah T-shirt or sweatshirt, so he’ll blend in better with the crowd at whatever establishment he ends up watching the game at.

“So I don’t get thrown out,” Kelly said with a laugh.

So how much will he cheer when Boise State scores, knowing he will have blown his cover?

“That’s a good question,” Kelly said. “Depends on how many friends I made in the place.”

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via e-mail at mnelke@cdapress.com.

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