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With Tavion Thomas out, TJ Pledger carries the rushing load for Utah

SHARE With Tavion Thomas out, TJ Pledger carries the rushing load for Utah
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Utah running back TJ Pledger (5) in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

AP

TUCSON, Arizona — With star running back Tavion Thomas held out of Saturday’s game against Arizona as a precautionary measure before next week’s showdown against No. 3 Oregon, someone needed to shoulder the responsibility on the ground for Utah.

That someone turned out to be TJ Pledger, who ran 25 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns in the Utes’ 38-29 win over Arizona Saturday afternoon. 

Thomas scored eight touchdowns in Utah’s previous two games, but with a big game against the Ducks looming next Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the coaches decided to let Pledger take on a heavier workload. 

“The coaches do a great job of always making sure that each back is ready,” Pledger said. “We have to prepare like you never know when your time is and you have to be able to take advantage of it and step up.

“In the room, we all feel like we can carry the load. Our coaches push us to believe that. When we get the opportunity, we try to do our best to take advantage of it.”

Micah Bernard ran 10 times for 34 yards and caught three passes for 60 yards, while Chris Curry had one carry for eight yards. 

“I’m very proud of the way the running backs came in. We were minus our big guy, Tavion. TJ Pledger, Micah Bernard and Chris Curry did a fine job,” Whittingham said.

“TJ was the lead back tonight. Micah added some yards and big yards in the throw game. He’s an exceptional receiver out of the backfield. We came away with 468 (total) yards, and that’s a pretty balanced attack. We spread the ball around.”