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LAS VEGAS — BYU and Utah arrived in Las Vegas late Tuesday night and both teams opened practices in southern Nevada on opposite ends of the city.
As BYU (9-3) kicked off practice in the morning at UNLV's Rebel Park, the Utes (9-3) practiced on the west side of town near Summerline at Bishop Gorman High School.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told media after practice he hoped the rivalry would remain a positive experience, and he said he had spoken with his players about not "fanning the flames" of the rivalry before Saturday's kickoff.
The advice lasted until the evening's dinner.
Utah defensive lineman Seni Faounuku called rival BYU "a dirty team" as the two squads met during a welcome reception at the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas ahead of Saturday's Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl matchup.
"BYU, ya'll a good team," Faounuku said after the two teams competed in a dance-off against each other, "but you're a dirty team.
"Don't start nothing, won't be nothing 'cause I swear we will literally hurt you every play … that's it."
Faounuku took to the mic with the remarks after he and teammate Pita Taomoepenu bested BYU's Jonny Linehan and Travis Tuiloma during a dance-off. After Taomoepenu finished his dance, it was Faounuku's turn.
But instead of dancing, he took the mic — and ran with it, fanning the flames of a rivalry that has taken nearly two years off.
Faounuku referenced several instances that were captured on ESPN broadcasts during the past season — a reference that caused many BYU players to get up and leave the event in stunned silence.
Whether he spoke for his team or not, BYU senior wide receiver Terenn Houk spoke for many BYU fans on Twitter.
Fuel to the 🔥 — Terenn Houk (@thouk11) December 17, 2015
Utah associate athletics director Liz Abel confirmed to local media that Whittingham has addressed the matter with Faounuku.
Utah teammates reacted with cheers, yells and a bowl official took the mic from Faounuku. Some Ute players could be heard yelling "let's go, Seni," from their tables.
Whether this is the first, only or last fiery moment between the two schools is yet to be seen. But one thing is certain after Faounuku's stirring exclamation:
The rivalry is back.
Contributing: Ben Schroeder