Utes rushing attack wearing opponents down


SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah ground game has reached historic levels.

For the first time in school history, the Utes had three running backs go over the 100-yard mark in Saturday’s 52-7 shellacking of Stanford.

Tavion Thomas (177 yards), Micah Bernard (110 yards) and T.J. Pledger (107 yards) all eclipsed the century mark, as Utah maintained control of the Pac-12 South.

“We’ve got a lot of dogs and we all have something special,” Bernard said. “It feels pretty good to know that each one of us can go out there any given week and just show out.”

One week after racking up 290 yards rushing against UCLA, Utah pounded out 441 yards rushing against the Cardinal, the fourth highest total in school history. Pledger busted off the longest run from scrimmage in Utah football history, when he took it 96 yards to pay dirt.

“It was amazing coming in after the game and seeing the stat sheet,” said Pledger, who had just four carries in the game. “I was just happy because I know how hard we work each and every week. We’re playing at a high level. The confidence is there at every position. We’re feeling good, but we know we’ve got room to improve.”

It sure makes quarterback Cam Rising’s job a lot easier. Basically all he had to do on Saturday was hand the ball off and watch the magic happen.

“I love seeing them go,” Rising said. “It’s nice when you hand the ball to those guys and just seeing them run, watching them move, it’s always a good time. Shout out to the o-block, and also the wideouts for blocking because they made it fun to watch.”

The star of the group is Thomas, who has overcome early season fumble issues to rush for 337 yards and 8 touchdowns in his last two games alone. For the season, Thomas has 742 yards rushing and a Pac-12 leading 14 touchdowns.

“His talent is very apparent,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “He’s got size, he’s got speed, he’s got quickness. He’s got pretty much everything you look for in a running back.”

While the offensive line deserves a lot of the credit, led by Nick Ford, Paul Maile, Braeden Daniels, Jaren Kump and Bam Olaseni, the identity of this offense has been re-established as run-first, physical attack.

“We struggled with that early in the year, but I think that’s the identity right now,” Bernard said. “We’re going to keep rushing the ball, and it will open up a lot of other things like play action and stuff.”

The Utes will take on Arizona Saturday in Tucson at 12:00 p.m.

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