In short, it was a weird, wild Saturday in the Pac-12.
As has happened many times in recent years, the league cannibalized itself again.
No. 6 Oregon slipped at home to No. 25 Washington, 37-34, shattering its College Football Playoff hopes.
No. 12 UCLA then dropped a 34-28 decision at home against Arizona, the same team that Utah beat at home last week 45-20. Perhaps the Bruins were looking ahead to next week’s showdown against No. 8 USC, their crosstown rivals.
As for No. 13 Utah, it fell behind 7-0 after one quarter of play against lowly Stanford.
Would it be one of those crazy nights for the Utes, too, a week before visiting the Ducks?
Utah won its fourth straight game in its home finale, and on Senior Night, at Rice-Eccles Stadium by scoring 42 unanswered points to put together a resounding 42-7 victory.
“Great effort by our football team,” said coach Kyle Whittingham. “We weren’t as productive or efficient as we needed to be in the first half.
“In the second half, we got control of the game completely in the third quarter and never looked back.”
In the second quarter, the ending of the Oregon-Washington game was shown on the big screen and Ute fans erupted in cheers.
Utah (8-2, 6-1), which travels to Eugene next week to face the Ducks, still controls its own destiny when it comes to reaching the Pac-12 Championship Game in Las Vegas on Dec. 2.
The Utes compiled 514 yards of total offense against Stanford (3-7, 1-7).
“Just cleaned it up,” quarterback Cam Rising said about the offense’s second-half explosion. “We stopped having some holding (penalties). Any time you set your offense back, it’s going to be rough.
“We eliminated mistakes and things started to go our way.”
Utah’s defense gave up just nine first downs and 22 yards rushing. They also recorded seven sacks for minus-33 yards.
“Coach always emphasizes preparation, being prepared for the game and knowing what to anticipate and knowing how to react to what we see,” said linebacker Mohamoud Diabate.
“We put in the work behind the scenes to be able to produce like that.”
And Ute running back Tavion Thomas re-emerged as a force, rushing 22 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns after playing sparingly the last several weeks.
Thomas gained more yards on the ground than the Cardinal could muster in total offense (177).
“Tavion Thomas had a big game. It was great to see him in his last game here at Rice-Eccles and get back to his old self,” Whittingham said.
““I’m really proud of him and glad that he weathered the storm, I guess you could say.”
It was Thomas’ first 100-yard rushing performance since the season-opener at Florida on Sept. 3.
“I was so happy to be out there with my teammates,” Thomas said about his effort on Saturday.
“We went out there and performed with each other. I wasn’t worried about carries or anything. I was worried about finishing this thing and playing with these guys.”
Thomas ran wild against the Cardinal last season, rushing for 177 yards on 20 carries and he scored four first-half touchdowns as Utah crushed Stanford 52-7.
Utah’s offense started slowly Saturday but ultimately it overwhelmed the Cardinal. Rising completed 20 of 33 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns and an interception.
Asked if this was his last game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Rising replied, “I believe so, yes.”
Tight end Dalton Kincaid returned to action for the first time since the Washington State game on Oct. 27 and he caught four passes for 35 yards.
Wide receiver Devaughn Vele came up big, catching six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Running backs Jaylon Glover and Ja’Quinden Jackson, who suffered injuries in last week’s win over Arizona, did not play.
Thomas’ production “was extremely valuable,” Whittingham said. “Micah (Bernard) has battled some injuries and he’s not at full strength. When he plays, he’s not his usual self. He gave us great production tonight and did some good things.
“Then our two younger backs are pretty banged up, so to have Tavion tonight was just what we needed to give us a spark.”
In all, the Utes rolled up 279 rushing yards.
Freshman backup quarterback Nate Johnson gave the Utes a spark as well. He rushed once for 21 yards and he threw a third-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Logan Kendall.
It marked Johnson’s first career pass and his first career touchdown pass. For Kendall, it was his first career TD catch at Utah.
Rising was impressed with Johnson’s speed and playmaking ability.
“He’s been phenomenal. Anytime you have a guy that can run that fast … he does a good job with the ball in his hands and he makes smart decisions,” Rising said.
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders, especially for a freshman. It’s impressive to see.”
Rising was also glad to see Kendall get into the end zone for the first time this season.
“Any time you get the rhino going downhill in open space like that and get him the ball, he’s going to make a play,” Rising said.
“I know the whole team (was excited) about that.”
Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee’s 51-yard pass to Elijah Higgins set up a one-yard touchdown run by McKee to put the Cardinal ahead 7-0 with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
McKee finished 11-of-23 for 155 yards and he was sacked seven times.
But early in the second quarter, Utah got on the board when Rising connected with Vele for a nine-yard TD pass to tie the game. A four-yard touchdown run by Thomas later in the period gave the Utes a 14-7 advantage.
Utah could have broken the game open just before halftime but Rising threw a pass into the end zone intended for Kincaid that was intercepted by Jonathan McGill.
Turns out, the Utes waited until the second half to break this one open.
EXTRA POINTS: Utah now leads the all-time series with Stanford 7-4 … The Utes have won six of the last seven meetings … On Utah’s opening series, punter Jack Bouwmeester executed a fake punt, running for 14 yards and gaining a first down … Utah was on 4-of-4 on fourth-down conversion attempts, all in the first half.