Dennis Pitta</I>

PROVO — Tight end Dennis Pitta, who suffered an MCL sprain in his knee in BYU's win last weekend against Air Force, said Monday he expects to be in the lineup against Utah.

"I'll work hard this week to play on Saturday," he said.

Quarterback Max Hall said Pitta, who is Hall's brother-in-law, will be ready to go. "Dennis is tough. He's had injuries all year and he's played through it and played just fine. He'll play through it. He'll bear down with the pain, and I think he'll have a great game on Saturday. We're going to need him."

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said players have sustained similar injuries in the past and have played the following week. But he also acknowledged Pitta's recovery won't be easy.

"It will take extensive rehab," Mendenhall said. "He'll be in a brace and probably won't practice until Thursday. He'll do his best to get ready to play."

Mendenhall added that Pitta's availability will likely be a game-time decision.

Not having Pitta, or at least not having him at full strength, is a blow to the Cougar offense. Pitta, an All-America candidate, has caught 76 passes for 992 yards and six touchdowns this season. Fortunately for BYU, Pitta's backup, Andrew George, has seen plenty of action this season. He's caught 21 passes for 204 yards and five touchdowns.

Pitta was injured in the fourth quarter when he caught a 12-yard pass from Hall on a crucial third-down situation. Pitta sustained the injury when he was hit on the kneecap by a Falcon cornerback. Pitta's catch kept alive a drive that ended with a 45-yard touchdown catch by Austin Collie with 4:46 remaining.

As for other injuries, offensive guard Ray Feinga (back sprain) has been cleared to play on Saturday. Cornerback Andrew Rich sustained a "bell-ringer" last week, but he is expected to practice today or Wednesday.

Linebacker Shawn Doman, who underwent an appendectomy last weekend before the Air Force game, is expected to return to action this week.

Daniel Sorensen, who sprained his ankle in practice last Thursday, is also expected be back, according to Mendenhall.

Restricted access

After BYU's win over Air Force last Saturday, Mendenhall asked his players not to talk about the upcoming Utah game until this week.

BYU held its regular weekly media gathering Monday morning and the Cougars' four team captains answered questions from a variety of media outlets. Monday's practice was open to the media, but it will be closed the rest of the week.

Hall player of the week

Hall earned Mountain West Conference player of the week honors after he completed 28 of 37 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday's victory over Air Force. In the second half, he completed 13 of 17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.