Utah running back Eddie Wide has faced BYU twice in his career. In both games, however, he was relegated to special teams.

On Saturday, he'll step into the spotlight as the Utes' featured back.

"I'm really excited," Wide said. "It means a lot to me to be a part of the rivalry."

And a big one at that.

As is the case every week, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham notes how critical it is to establish a ground game.

"It just makes the throw game go. If teams don't respect the run, if they have no concern for the run, it makes it hard to throw the football because everyone's dropping off into coverage," he explained. "So we need them to respect the run game in order to have the play-action passes and that type of thing go."

It won't be easy. BYU enters the game ranked second in the Mountain West Conference against the run, allowing just 113.4 yards per game.

Among those clogging things up is linebacker Shawn Doman. The senior has made 61 tackles this season and recovered a fumble in last week's 38-21 win over Air Force. He's tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries with three.

"They've got a pretty stout run defense," Whittingham said.

It won't be the first Utah has faced. In their 55-28 loss at TCU, Wide was held to just 25 yards rushing by the Horned Frogs — a big deal considering he leads the league in conference games with 103.1 per outing.

"BYU has a lot of playmakers, just like TCU does," said Wide, who needs 82 more yards to become the 11th 1,000-yard rusher in U. history. "So we're just going to go out there, just execute and play our game."

After replacing the injured Matt Asiata earlier in the season, Wide reeled off a school-record six consecutive 100-yard games.

"I've been impressed that with the loss of Asiata they've had a player step up like Eddie Wide has done. They've moved ahead, put another player in and kept the program going. I think that reflects program maturity, like I've talked about our own," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "That allows you to play with consistency. When you have players being developed and maybe not as noticed until they get their opportunity, and then you don't see much drop-off, that's a positive thing for their program."

Contributing: Jeff Call

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com