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Utah football notebook: Finale hasn't hit Isaac Asiata — yet

Utah Utes offensive lineman Isaac Asiata (54) walks off the field after losing a football game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Utah lost 22-27.
Utah Utes offensive lineman Isaac Asiata (54) walks off the field after losing a football game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Utah lost 22-27.
Kristin Murphy,

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Utah senior Isaac Asiata, winner of the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s top offensive lineman, said it hasn’t hit him that the Foster Farms Bowl will be his last game with the Utes.

Asiata expects it to hit when the game is over or maybe halfway through it.

Regardless of when it sinks in, Utah is bidding farewell to one of its biggest leaders — even if he was never elected a captain. The 6-foot-3, 323-pound left guard from Spanish Fork may be the heart and soul of the squad.

“You don’t have to be a captain to be a great leader,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “Leadership is not just the captains.”

Asiata epitomizes such a philosophy.

“Was I a captain? No. Did I feel like I should have been a captain? Yes. But I wasn’t,” Asiata said. “I’m leading right now as if I were a captain or not. It didn’t change. If I was a captain I all of a sudden wouldn’t be Superman and a hip, hip, hooray guy.”

Asiata insists he would be the same guy. His focus is on the team.

“I’m proud of the captains we do have,” he said. “I think they’ve been doing a great job.”

BACK IN THE BAY AREA: Counting games at San Jose State on Sept. 17 and California on Oct. 1, the Foster Farms Bowl will be Utah’s third game in the Bay Area this season.

“It’s in our recruiting footprint,” Whittignham said. “We’re not overly concerned where we play, just tell us where to be and when to be there, and that’s mainly what we’re concerned about.”

IS WHAT IT IS: Whittingham estimates this is the fourth or fifth bowl game he has coached in that has required being away from home for Christmas.

“So it’s nothing new to me,” he said.

The first one, though, was different. Whittingham admits it was strange as his family adjusted to the circumstances. They tried to bring Christmas to the bowl game and packed a lot of toys and stuff for the kids.

“We got smart after that and started having Christmas before we left for the bowl,” Whittingham said. “You adapt and you learn and you move on.”

EXTRA POINTS: Bowl sponsor Foster Farms, a poultry company, is committed to provide a meal to someone in need for every ticket sold to the game. … This is the only bowl game broadcast by FOX. … Utah has won two of the three previous meetings with Indiana.