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3 takeaways from Utah’s 52-7 win over Stanford

Micah Bernard runs the ball for a touchdown as his teammates celebrate behind him
Utah Utes running back Micah Bernard (2) runs the ball for a touchdown, putting the Utes up 52-7 after the PAT in the game against the Stanford Cardinal in Stanford, Calif. on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Everything clicked for the Utah Utes in their 52-7 win over Stanford on Friday night.

The Utes’ offense and defense were both fantastic. Utah’s offense gained 581 yards, while the defense held the Cardinal to only 167 total yards.

Utah improved to 6-3 overall and 5-1 in Pac-12 play.

Here are three takeaways from the Utes’ win:

Utah run game, offensive line put on a masterclass

Each game, it seems as if Utah’s offensive line and run game get better. The offensive line of Bam Olaseni, Nick Ford, Paul Maile, Sataoa Laumea and Braeden Daniels was fantastic again for a second consecutive game.

Especially in the first half, Utah’s offensive front was manhandling Stanford’s defensive line, with multiple pancake blocks and huge holes for the Ute running backs to run through. Ford, in particular, had a great game.

Utah rushed for 441 total yards, with 336 of those coming in the first half. It was just too easy for the Utes when they ran the ball.

The Utes knew they had a good opportunity to gain a lot of rushing yards coming into the game due to Stanford’s worst-in-the-conference rush defense, but Utah exceeded all expectations.

Tavion Thomas had a monster night, rushing for 177 yards and four touchdowns. Thomas now has eight touchdowns in his last three games. Complementing Thomas was Micah Bernard, who had 110 yards and a touchdown, and TJ Pledger, who had 107 yards and a touchdown. It was the first time that Utah has had three 100-yard rushers in a game.

Thomas’ most impressive run of the night came on a 58-yard touchdown when he evaded two tacklers in the backfield and found the hole, running free to the end zone.

Pledger turned in Utah’s longest-ever run on a 96-yard touchdown run, complete with a stiff arm.

It was a fantastic night for the Utes’ run game, which just keeps getting better.

Utah’s defense stifles Stanford

Stanford’s offense, which ranked third in the Pac-12 in passing yards, took a blow pregame as the team announced that starting quarterback Tanner McKee was out with an injury. McKee has led the Cardinal’s pass-heavy offense, and without him, Stanford was lost.

Jack West took the majority of snaps at quarterback for the Cardinal, as he passed 18 times (Stanford passed 23 times in total), He went 12-for-18 for only 59 yards, with some of that coming in garbage time.

Utah’s defensive line was disruptive all game, sacking West five times, including a strip sack that caused a fumble. Devin Lloyd also picked West off and dived into the end zone for a touchdown.

Without McKee, Stanford turned to the run game, and the Cardinal was stuffed all night. The Utes held the Cardinal to 82 total yards. In the first half, the Utes were even more dominant, as Stanford only gained five rushing yards.

The Utes had 15 tackles for loss, which encapsulates their incredible performance.

Devin Lloyd’s decision to come back for his senior season is paying off

Devin Lloyd elected to return to Utah for his senior season, and that decision is paying off.

NFL scouts have been at every Utah home game, and Lloyd has performed well in front of them.

Lloyd was excellent on Friday, leading the Utes in tackles with nine. He had five tackles for loss (three more than Stanford’s entire team), an interception which was returned for a touchdown, a pass breakup and a sack.

Lloyd can drop into coverage or get after the quarterback, and he displayed both of those skillsets on Friday.

Lloyd’s best play of the night came when he picked off West in the fourth quarter. With Stanford at its own 4-yard line, Lloyd leaped high to pick off West’s pass from point-blank range and dove into the end zone as the Utes went up 45-7.

Lloyd will be one of the first linebackers taken in the 2022 NFL draft, and with each game, his stock rises.