Facebook Twitter

Can Utah’s run game be the difference against the Trojans?

Utah’s rushing attack has been a mixed bag this season, but Utah coach Kyle Whittingham sounds optimistic about the future

SHARE Can Utah’s run game be the difference against the Trojans?
Utah’s Tavion Thomas dodges a tackle during game against Southern Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

Utah’s Tavion Thomas dodges a tackle during game against Southern Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

This article was first published in the Ute Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Wednesday night.

Utah’s run game has been an adventure this season.

Tavion Thomas has been up-and-down. He had his best game of the season last week in the Utes’ 42-32 loss at UCLA — running 18 times for 91 yards and a touchdown. But he has had personal issues to deal with and didn’t play in the first half against Arizona State.

Micah Bernard has been Utah’s most consistent running back, while freshman Jaylon Glover is going through some growing pains. Ja’Quinden Jackson was switched from backup quarterback to running back and is still adjusting to the move.

Coach Kyle Whittingham said that Thomas got “a little bit tired” last Saturday, adding that he’s “still not in great shape.”

But the coach was pleased with the production the offense got from Thomas as the Utes prepare to host No. 7 USC Saturday.

“He did play his best, most productive, game of the year,” Whittingham said. “Maybe in hindsight we should have given him more carries in the second half. But it wasn’t by design to go away from that.”

Whittingham is hopeful that Thomas will hit his stride at the midpoint of the season, just like he did last year.

“It was last year at this time that he started to break out,” he said. “We hope it’s the same thing this year.”

Whittingham said he has a lot of confidence in Jackson.

“He’s making progress each week. With Tavion starting to emerge, there are only so many reps and touches. But he’s right in the mix, in the top four.”

Can Utah’s run game make the difference against the Trojans?

In case you missed it

Under first-year coach Lincoln Riley, USC has made the most of its opportunities in the transfer portal, adding numerous star players from other programs during the offseason.

As a result, the Trojans are undefeated and ranked in the top 10.

On Monday, Whittingham underscored the impact of the transfer portal on college football.

“Obviously, he’s doing a great job at USC. Obviously, the transfer portal is being manifest how impactful it can be there and at Oklahoma,” he said. “Oklahoma had mass departures and USC had a mass influx of talent. You can see what’s happening.

“You can see that teams are able to make major improvement or go the other way — more so than ever before because of the amount of turnover on your roster. There’s far more turnover on your roster now than there ever has been in the modern era of college football.”

Numbers game

1,108: Rushing yards by running back Tavion Thomas in 13 games in 2021.

386: Rushing yards by Thomas though six games in 2022.

21: Touchdowns scored by Thomas in 13 games in 2021.

5: Touchdowns scored by Thomas through six games in 2022.

From the archives

Extra points

  • BYU and Utah both miss out on commitment from elite basketball prospect Keanu Dawes (Deseret News)
  • Runnin’ Utes’ basketball season starts in four weeks: Are they ready to play now? (Deseret News)
  • ‘A definite concern’: Why Utah’s Kyle Whittingham wants touchbacks (Deseret News)
  • 3 takeaways from No. 11 Utah’s loss to No. 18 UCLA (Deseret News)
  • What you need to know about Garett Bolles’ injury (Deseret News)


In the future Utah needs to recruit more speed on defense at all positions. Looked like Utah’s feet were set in cement as UCLA ran over, around and through defenders all day long.

— Utesforme

Coach Whittingham is correct! The NIL when combined with the transfer portal will make college sports the little brother of the NFL and the NBA. It’s all just about the money. The rich and wealthy will be the most successful. Just about the same as every other venue in this world of ours.

— Pathfinderman

I like the fact that players are now free agents and can pick up and leave whenever they want—just like coaches do. I’d like to see the free agent system at the high school level, too.

However, money will follow the biggest programs and reminds me of how the Premier League in England is organized and has turned into a league where the richest teams rule the roost.

— BC-Cali21

Up next

Oct. 14 | 7 p.m. | Volleyball | vs. Washington | @Salt Lake City | Pac-12 Network

Oct. 14 | 8 p.m. | Soccer | vs. Arizona State | @Tempe, Arizona | Pac-12 Network

Oct. 15 | 6 p.m. | Football | vs. USC | @Salt Lake City | Fox

Oct. 16 | noon | Volleyball | vs. Washington State | @Salt Lake City | Pac-12 Network


Utah receiver Devaughn Vele gets tackled during game against UCLA as Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham watches at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News