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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Football Notebook

By Bryan Chouinard

Injury report
Utah has had good luck in the second half of the 2009 season when it comes to injuries. The Utes have remained healthy during the past few weeks and should be as close to full strength Saturday as they have been all year.

Defensive tackle Kenape Eliapo will miss his fourth straight game because of an eye condition. Coaches are optimistic about Eliapo being back for the Utes’ bowl game but have ruled him out for this weekend’s matchup with BYU.

Coaches hope that senior wideout John Peel will be able to return from a foot injury he sustained last week during practice. The injury kept Peel out of the San Diego State game, and he is listed as questionable for this weekend.

Other than Peel, Eliapo and Matt Asiata, the Utes will be going into Provo at full strength.

Rivalry recap
BYU is the second-longest series in Ute history, behind only Utah State. The Utes and Cougars met for the first time in 1896, when the Utes won 12-4. All-time, the Utes lead the series 53-33-4. Last time the two schools met, the Utes doubled up on the Cougars 48-24 despite being outgained on offense as well as giving up more than 200 yards of total rushing.

The last time the two teams met in Provo, the Cougars won in the final minute of play when tailback Harvey Unga ran the ball in for an 11-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left to seal the win for BYU. But despite the win in Provo in 2007, the Utes have actually had the edge over the Cougars in LaVell Edwards Stadium, winning six of the past eight matchups in Provo. Overall, Utah has won five of the last seven meetings of the two schools.

This will mark only the third time in the rivalry’s history that the two schools will face off while both ranked in the Top 25. The Utes are 7-1 all-time when both they and their opponents are ranked and are 2-0 in previous meetings with the Cougars.

“(The rivalry) just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “When both teams are doing well, it definitely adds a dimension to the game. In years past, one team will be up and one team will be down, but recently it has been both teams that are up, which is a healthy, positive thing for the rivalry,” he said.

Crossing enemy lines
When Utah faces off with BYU on Saturday, the Utes will be led by a number of former Cougars on their own sideline. Whittingham, defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and wide receivers coach Aaron Roderick all attended and played for BYU before making their way to Salt Lake City.

Sitake’s playing career as a fullback with the Cougars spanned from 1994 to 2000, except for the time he served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also served as a graduate assistant in 2002.

Roderick played at BYU from 1997 to 1998 as a kick returner and wide receiver after transferring to Provo from Ricks College, now known as BYU Idaho. Roderick also served as an offensive graduate assistant from 1999-2001. Whittingham played linebacker for the Cougars until he graduated in 1984. Despite systems changing, Whittingham said he sees having former Cougars on staff as a major advantage.

“(Sitake and Roderick) both have extensive backgrounds in the offense at BYU, and they know a lot of the details and subtle nuances that you need to know to defend it,” Whittingham said. “They both were in that program for several years as graduate assistants and players, and it helps to have guys with that background.”

This time last year
Last year, the Utes knocked off the Cougars for the first time in three years to advance to the school’s second-ever Bowl Championship Series berth. The Utes beat the Cougars 48-24, but you might have not known by looking at the numbers. BYU quarterback Max Hall has always been known for his strong arm, but it was the BYU run game that set the tone for the BYU offense a year ago. The Utes gave up 205 total rushing yards, 116 of which came from starting running back Unga. Unga is back again in 2009 and on pace for a 1,000-yard season.

“It will be very important to not let them get that run game established,” Whittingham said. “Harvey has been very productive for them. If they get the run game going, it only makes the passing game that much more difficult to defend.”

The Utes were also outgained on offense a year ago, and if it weren’t for the Utah defense intercepting Hall’s passes five times, the Utes might not have come out on top.

[email protected]

Mike Mangum

Members of the MUSS lean over the railing to give high-fives to the football team after it demolished San Diego State on Saturday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The team is gearing up for the big rivalry game against BYU on Saturday.

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