Utes See Significant Improvement In Run Game With Win Over UCLA

Oct 31, 2021, 12:54 AM
Tavion Thomas - Utah Utes vs. UCLA...
Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) evades a tackle from UCLA Bruins defensive back Martell Irby (12) on his way to scoring a touchdown during the game between Utah and UCLA at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Deseret News)
(Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Utes ran all over the UCLA Bruins once again in their 44-24 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night.

It seemed like Deja vu as as the rushing attack once again controlled the game between the Utes and Bruins. This time it was Tavion Thomas but as a team, Utah racked up 290 yards on the ground and had five touchdowns.

Vast Improvement In Utah’s Running Game

Tavion Thomas has been a different running back since the start of the year. He had a strong debut against Weber State before falling out of the rotation for a stretch of three games due to ball security issues.

Now, he has corrected that and has become the running back that Utah was hoping he would be. Thomas finished with 24 carries for 160 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt.

“Tavion was outstanding, 160 plus yards and four touchdowns, just an outstanding night,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game. He’s really turned into a workhorse for us and carried the ball 24 times and it’s a huge positive what he’s doing for our team.”

It seemed like Thomas would get stuffed at the line of scrimmage on some runs but would find ways to get three, four or five more yards with his physicality.

Cam Rising had 63 yards on just six carries and ran in a touchdown in the win over UCLA. T.J. Pledger added eight rush attempts for 61 yards.

Offensive Line Showing Big Improvement Since Start Of Season

The offensive line was an issue at the start of the season but as they started getting guys back and healthy. They have still improved despite making changes up front. Jaren Kump was ruled out for the rest of the season after suffering a season-ending injury against USC.

Keaton Bills was not available this week, according to Whittingham, which forced them to start Paul Maile at center and move Nick Ford over to left guard.

“Offensive line deserves a huge shout out,” stated Whittingham. “You don’t get 290 yards rushing without a lot of movement going on up front and our offensive line rose to the occasion, rose to the challenge.”

Utah improved their record to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play. They will be on the road to face Stanford on Friday, November 5 at 8:30 p.m. MT on FS1.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com, Co-Host of Faith, Family and Football podcast with Clark Phillips III and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASports.

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