UTAH UTES

Three Things To Watch: Stanford Vs. No. 13 Utah

Nov 10, 2022, 11:51 AM
Tavion Thomas - Utah Utes vs. Stanford Cardinal...
Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) runs the ball in for his fourth touchdown, putting Utah up 28-0 over the Stanford Cardinal after the PAT, in Stanford, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY- No. 13 Utah is set to host Stanford in a late kickoff at 8 p.m. MT at Rice-Eccles Stadium for Senior Night. It will be the last home game of the 2022 season for the Utah football team and is one last tune-up before the Utes travel to Oregon for a showdown that will likely determine who goes to the Conference Championship Game in December.

Despite having good talent to work with, the Cardinal has once again struggled to put together a good season under head coach David Shaw. Last season, Utah blew their doors off 52-7 and it’s looking likely that the Utes will handle Staford again even with some of the injuries. The Cardinal have had their moments in 2022 like beating Notre Dame, but overall consistency game in and game out has been an issue.

Here is what to watch as the Utes take on the Cardinal Saturday night.

Who Is In For Utah, Who Is Out

The biggest storyline for Utah heading into their last three games is injuries. Thankfully, the Utes have only had three season-ending injuries with running back Chris Curry, tight end Brant Kuithe and defensive end Van Fillinger. The unfortunate news is they have several other guys with smaller injuries, that aren’t necessarily able to play to their full capacity and that will be the most interesting part to watch this coming week.

Cam Rising missed time against Washington State two weeks ago but was available last Saturday against Arizona. Rising’s game against the Wildcats was not his best- it was clear he still wasn’t 100% and the weather certainly didn’t help either. Still, he got the job done and should be closer to his old self against the Cardinal provided there are no setbacks.

Tight end Dalton Kincaid was out last week after sustaining an injury on Utah’s last touchdown against WSU the week before. Kincaid said on Jake and Ben earlier in the week that he intends to play in his last home game as a Ute at Rice-Eccles Stadium, but head coach Kyle Whittingham noted it will be a close call.

Running back Micah Bernard wasn’t going to play against WSU a few weeks back due to an undisclosed injury but ended up in the game as a blocker anyway. It was very apparent from the go that Bernard was really toughing that game out and trying his best to be there for his team. The following week he looked much more like his old self against Arizona which makes it seem likely he should be close to 100% for Stanford. Great news for a team that needs all of its best weapons available.

Both Jaylon Glover and Ja’Quinden Jackson exited the Arizona game early with injuries leaving the running back room feeling very thin. Neither have been reported as season-ending injuries so it is presumable they both will be seen before the season is over, but will that time come on Saturday?

Johnny Maea took snaps at center last week against the Wildcats without a hitch while starter Paul Maile got some rest. Either way, it appears Utah is in good hands at a very critical position, but obviously the ideal would be to have your starter available if needed.

The Curious Case Of Tavion Thomas

No one really knows what has been going on with star running back Tavion Thomas in 2022 and Utah intends to keep it that way per Whittingham several times over. Thomas didn’t travel to WSU a few weeks ago. He reappeared last week against Arizona making a spectacular tackle on special teams and was the primary rock carrier late in the third quarter and early in the fourth when Glover and Jackson went out of the game.

 

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Do we see more of Thomas this week? Does his role expand, or does it stay about the same? Whittingham has indicated that things appear to be trending positively with Thomas, but what that means for his touches moving forward is anyone’s guess.

What was apparent when Thomas went into the game last week was there was an appreciation for the moment despite it being smaller than what he’s used to.

Got Any More Of That Offensive Creativity?

Injuries are never fun, but offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig sure has made the most of it in 2022. While it’s true you always want your starters available to you and fully healthy, reality is that football doesn’t work that way.

Ludwig has done a good job of finding different players on offense to keep productivity up, or just figuring out creative ways to use them for the same purpose. Jackson moving to running back from quarterback comes to mind as well as quarterback Nate Johnson being used a few times last Saturday in a wildcat package. Tight end Thomas Yassmin and receiver Jaylen Dixon have also had some “wow” moments as replacements for guys who can’t go.

Who will be that guy this week? Does Utah even need a guy(s) to step up like that against Stanford? Maybe it all gets saved for Oregon instead, either way the creativity has been a fun thing to watch as the season has gone on.

 

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

 

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