PROVO — One Cougar will see a beginning, while another will see an end to the BYU-Utah rivalry come Saturday.

Veteran BYU running back Fahu Tahi will take to the turf in Provo for the last time when BYU hosts Utah. Freshman receiver Michael Reed will get his first taste of what it's all about, but it's already not what he thought it would be, and kickoff is still three days away.

Reed is disappointed Utah quarterback Brian Johnson won't be on the field Saturday for the rivalry game, the finale for the Utes and Cougars.

Reed and Johnson were teammates on the same Texas high school team, Baytown Lee, near Houston. They are also cousins. And this week, Johnson called Reed after his knee injury last Saturday in the New Mexico game and told him he will not play, but he will be on the sidelines at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"It's unfortunate we can't be on the field at the same time this Saturday," Reed said. "We were both looking forward to it all year, and we talked about it often. I talked to him this week and told him my prayers were with him and hopefully he can hurry and get back. He's not going to rush anything to come back. He's going to have some of his family here for the game, and I'm going to have some of my family at the game, so we're still looking forward to it."

Reed has 15 catches for 194 yards and 1 touchdown. Tahi has 84 rushing attempts for 485 yards and 5 touchdowns and has 35 catches for 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Reed has played a role as outside receiver, trading time with Todd Watkins this season. A redshirt freshman, he has proven his wares, not only in the pass catching department but blocking downfield. Saturday will be his first on-field Utah-BYU rivalry experience.

"We were jabbing each other all year long. Even before we came to school here, we talked about playing against one another. But we've got plenty of time down the road to do that now, and he'll be back."

Reed said the Ute defense he'll face is different that any the Cougars have faced this season — a scheme that plays almost exclusively man coverage in the secondary. "I believe this is the first time we've seen that coverage. They have a lot of talented players on that side of the ball, all very skilled and athletic. We just hope to get open."

Reed said the Cougars have practiced this week just as they have all season, tried to work hard and stay focused.

"Nobody's looking at any newspapers or listening to any radio stations. We're trying to keep our focus on playing football and doing the things we have to do. We've tuned everything out. This is just another game that just happens to be with our rival. We just want to go out playing as hard as we can and get a win."

Senior running back Fahu Tahi said the BYU-Utah game is worthy of the hype because it does mean a lot to those who play in it. "Regardless of records or standings, both teams show up and play very hard."

Tahi said the Ute defense looks a lot like Wyoming on film, with a lot of man coverage, and he expects Utah to play hard every down.

A native of Utah who graduated from Granger High School, Tahi knows what the rivalry is all about.

"I'm not one to come out talking trash or anything, I just want to go out and take care of business and keep it rolling, what we've been doing the last couple of weeks and keep that good feeling."

Tahi's long ride at BYU will end Saturday when he takes to the field for the last time as a senior. He was a freshman with Luke Staley back in 1999 and then served an LDS mission to Jacksonville, Fla.

Tahi said it will be tough walking off the field for the last time come Saturday, and he's enjoyed hanging with running backs Curtis Brown , Manase Tonga and others.

"I do appreciate my position coach, Lance Reynolds, who recruited me and has been there for me during my entire career. I've enjoyed it. I have nothing bad to say about my experience at BYU."

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Tahi said BYU's new offense, which has provided him plenty of chances to show his wares as a 255-pound runner and pass catcher with 4.55 speed in the 40. Tahi said he feels good with the touches he's been getting, and the running backs are having fun being a part of Robert Anae's schemes.

"It know it will be very emotional for me on Saturday. I've been here a long time and it's been a long ride. I love this place, and I'll miss it a lot. But all good things must come to an end."


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com