FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – Long before Kyle Whittingham and Steve Kragthorpe were head coaches, they were kids running around together at BYU, where their dads were on Lavell Edwards’ staff in the 1970s.

“We’ve been locked in lockers, taped to practice dummies and thrown in whirlpools by guys like Andy Reid and Brian Billick and Golden Richards, and a bunch of other guys that played at BYU,” said Kragthorpe, the fourth-year Tulsa coach. “We had a great lifestyle growing up.”

Kragthorpe and Whittingham will be on opposite sidelines tonight, facing each other as head coaches for the first time, when the Golden Hurricane (8-4) play Utah (7-5) in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The fourth-year game on TCU’s campus formerly was known as the Fort Worth Bowl.

Both Kragthorpe and Whittingham are still early in their head coaching careers, and already have had success.

While unable to successfully defend its Conference USA title this season, Tulsa is in its third bowl and has a 29-21 record for Kragthorpe. The Golden Hurricane won only two games in the two seasons before he arrived, and hadn’t played in the postseason since 1991.

“I’m really happy with the progress we’re making right now,” Kragthorpe said. “If somebody would have said four years ago that we’d be going to our third bowl game and would have won 29 games … They would have said here’s the psychiatric ward, and we’ve got your bed.”

Whittingham was the defensive coordinator at Utah before his promotion to replace Urban Meyer two years ago, at the end of the Utes’ 12-0 season when they were the first non-BCS team to play in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Utah stretched its bowl winning streak to five in a row since 1999 with a 38-10 victory over Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl last year to end Whittingham’s first season.

The Utes overcame a midseason struggle this year that included a 36-3 home loss to Boise State. They won three straight games before a heartbreaking 33-31 loss to Mountain West Conference champion BYU in the regular-season finale.

Whittingham’s first setback at Utah was a 23-20 overtime loss at TCU in September 2005. The Armed Forces Bowl means a return to the stadium where the Utes’ 18-game winning streak ended.

“That was a tough deal. We hadn’t lost in almost two calendar years when we dropped that game,” Whittingham said. “But I don’t think there’s any lingering effect. We got that one out of our system this year when we got TCU at our place and we were able to get a win.”

Meyer now is preparing No. 2 Florida for the BCS championship game against No. 1 Ohio State in his second season with the Gators.

Tulsa was 7-1 this season before starting November with a 27-10 loss to eventual C-USA champion Houston. The Hurricane followed with a double-overtime loss to Rice, even though they outgained the Owls by 212 yards. They had a minus-six turnover margin in their three-game losing streak.

“There were disappointing parts of the season, but we’re not disappointed with the end result of 8-4,” Tulsa junior quarterback Paul Smith said.

Smith, already third on the school’s career passing chart with 5,713 yards, was the first recruit to commit to Tulsa after Kragthorpe became coach. He’s played in both bowls so far, playing in the Humanitarian Bowl as a freshman. He then redshirted before coming back last year and taking part in the Liberty Bowl victory over Fresno State.

“I’m kind of speechless right now of where we’ve come from,” Smith said. “It’s been awesome. Down the road, they will be appreciative of what this staff has been able to do.”

The fathers of Kragthorpe and Whittingham were on BYU’s staff together from 1973-79. The only other time the sons faced each other was when Kragthorpe was offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona and Whittingham was defensive coordinator at Idaho State.

The Armed Forces Bowl is sponsored by Bell Helicopter, and will feature numerous salutes to U.S. military personnel and veterans. There also will be displays that include attack helicopters, a 25-ton Bradley fighting vehicle, howitzers and a grenade-launching armored security vehicle.

AP-ES-12-22-06 1512EST

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