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3 takeaways from No. 23 Utah’s 38-7 win over No. 3 Oregon

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham gets doused with water from a cooler as Utah defeats Oregon 38-7 in an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Whittingham became Utah’s winningest coach with the win.
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham gets doused with water from a cooler as Utah defeats Oregon 38-7 in an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Whittingham became Utah’s winningest coach with the win.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Utah clinched the Pac-12 South title by beating No. 3 Oregon 38-7 at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night in front of a record crowd.

Tavion Thomas led the way with 94 yards and three touchdowns, while Cam Rising was 10 for 18 for 178 yards.

Brant Kuithe had five receptions for 118 yards.

Cole Bishop led the way on defense with seven tackles — including a tackle for loss — and two pass breakups, and Junior Tafuna had 1.5 sacks.

Here are three takeaways from the Utes’ win:

Special teams turns in special performance

After the struggles throughout the year, the special teams unit has to be feeling amazing after Saturday’s performance.

First, Cole Bishop blocked Oregon kicker Camden Lewis’ 36-yard field goal in the first quarter.

Utah had just scored its first touchdown of the game and Oregon looked to put its first points on the board but the Bishop block kept Oregon off the board and was huge for the Utes’ momentum.

It may have shaken Lewis’ confidence, since in the second quarter, he missed wide right.

After Utah stopped Oregon with 11 seconds left in the first half, Kyle Whittingham called a timeout, then Britain Covey returned the Ducks’ punt 78 yards for a touchdown.

It put Utah up 28-0 at halftime and was a huge factor in the game. Utah entered the locker room at halftime having played a nearly perfect half and had all of the momentum.

Kicker Jadon Redding was good on a 26-yard field goal and perfect on extra points.

Cameron Peasley and Michael Williams each punted, with 33-yard and 36-yard punts. The most important thing is that they did not get blocked.

It was an A+ performance from the special teams unit.

Tavion Thomas breaks Utah record in dominant performance

Utah running back Tavion Thomas scored three touchdowns and gained 94 yards, breaking the school record for rushing touchdowns in a single season in the process.

Thomas scored from 10, 4 and 5 yards out, providing Utah with much-needed points in the red zone.

When the Utes got down to the red zone, they knew they could count on Thomas, and he delivered, providing speed and power to get into the end zone.

Utah was 5 for 5 in the red zone, thanks in large part to Thomas.

The offensive line did its job well going up against a physical Oregon defensive line. The starting lineup of Bam Olaseni, Keaton Bills, Nick Ford, Sataoa Laumea and Braeden Daniels got better every single quarter, save for a few high snaps that Rising had to corral.

Tight ends Kuithe and Cole Fotheringham provided excellent blocking as well throughout the game.

Defense hold Ducks to season-low scoring output

Entering Saturday’s game, Oregon’s season-low scoring output was 24, in a loss to Stanford.

Thanks to the blocked field goal and a missed field goal, plus an outstanding performance from the Utah defense, the Utes held the Ducks to seven points.

Forcing a punt or field goal attempt of Oregon’s first five drives won Utah the game.

Bishop, a freshman, was excellent with seven tackles, a tackle for loss, two pass breakups and the blocked field goal.

Devin Lloyd had a big game, with six tackles, a tackle for loss and a big hit on Travis Dye on third down.

Tafuna had 1.5 sacks and Mika Tafua had a sack.

The defensive line was able to get pressure on Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown, sacking him three times and forcing hurry-ups.

Brown never really got comfortable or in a rhythm.

Utah contained Brown well when he tried to run, holding him to 8 yards on nine attempts and forcing him to try and beat Utah thorough the air.

The Utes’ run defense was fantastic, allowing only 63 total yards, including just 29 yards for Ducks star running back Travis Dye.