Tavion Thomas rushes for 4 touchdowns as Utah romps past UCLA, 44-24

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – On a night when the Utes honored two players who wore #22, Utah put up 44 points.

Led by a school record-tying four-touchdown performance by Tavion Thomas, the Utes football team is in control of the Pac-12 South race.

Thomas rushed for a career-high 160 yards on 24 carries and became the eighth Utah rusher in school history to score four touchdowns in a 44-24 win over UCLA Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

It was an emotional night as the school retired the number 22, worn by Aaron Lowe and Ty Jordan, who both died of gunshot wounds within the last year.

The last time a Utah player had four rushing TDs in a game was Joe Williams in 2016, also against UCLA.

“The key to the game was our ability to run the football,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “That was pretty cut and dry to me. They were tremendous against defending the run going in. They gave up 90-something yards, and we got 290. Tavion was outstanding, 160 yards and four touchdowns. Just an outstanding night, so he’s really turning into a workhorse for us.”

Utah produced 469 yards of total offense, the fourth straight game for the Utes to have over 400 yards on offense. The total included a season-high 290 rushing yards with five rushing touchdowns, the most rushing scores by Utah since they beat UCLA in 2016.

“I was feeling alright,” said Thomas, who left last week’s game against Oregon State with an injury. “My O-line was moving that thing, so it made it easy for me. We were all just working together, the receivers, tight ends, everybody was doing their jobs. It just happened like that, and we were executing today.”

Cam Rising completed 17 of 27 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown pass to Dalton Kincaid. Rising also rushed for 63 yards, as the Utes pounded out 290 rushing yards against the Bruins.

With the victory, Utah is now 4-1 in the Pac-12 South, effectively two games ahead of Arizona State with four games remaining.

“We’ve got a group of dogs and they just don’t stop going,” Rising said. “They just keep that gas pedal down and just go. It’s really fun, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Thomas rushed for three touchdowns in the first half alone as the Utes took a 28-10 lead into halftime. After the Bruins cut the lead to 28-17, Rising scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown to push the lead back to 18.

Freshman Ethan Garbers threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns on 27-for-44 passing with an interception for UCLA (5-4, 3-3). He made his first career start in place of Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who was injured on the Bruins’ last possession of last week’s loss to Oregon.

Utah clinched the game with a safety – a sack by Hauati Pututau with 7:16 remaining – and an ensuing deliberate drive that forced the Bruins to use all three of their timeouts.

The Utes defense forced one turnover, an interception by Nephi Sewell. Utah played the first half without its best defensive player, linebacker Devin Lloyd, who was called for targeting last week at Oregon State.

“It was pretty much about stopping the run,” said safety Brandon McKinney. “I feel like last week we didn’t give our best football. It felt like our energy wasn’t there. But we came back and just dominated tonight. I’m really proud of my guys and really proud of everybody, offense and defense.”

Utah next hits the road at Stanford for a Friday night clash at 8:30 p.m.

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