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3 players who made an impact in Utah’s win over Stanford

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Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (wearing black) scores a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.

Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) scores a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Utah steamrolled Stanford 42-7 on Saturday, improving to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12 play.

Utah outgained Stanford 514-177 and scored 42 straight points in a dominant performance that earned them a spot in the Top 10 in the AP poll.

Here are three players who made an impact in Utah’s win:

Tavion Thomas, RB

Tavion Thomas had perhaps his best game as a Ute on Saturday.

He rushed for a career-high 180 yards, outgaining Stanford’s offensive production by himself, and scored two touchdowns.

“We did another great job of rushing the football. Tavion Thomas had a big game, and it was great to see him in his last game here at Rice-Eccles get back to his old self. I am proud of him and glad that he has weathered the storm,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Thomas, who has missed games this season, looks to be back to his old self.

It was the first 100-plus yard game Thomas has had since the season-opener at Florida, where he rushed for 115 yards.

It was a classic Utah game, running the football at will.

Thomas, rested and ready for the stretch run, looks to be hitting his stride at the right time.

“First of all, I just want to say I was so happy to be out there with my teammates, all of the seniors wanted to be out there and perform for each other and play hard for each other, that’s all I was really worried about,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t worried about the carries; I was just worried about finishing this thing and playing with these guys.”

Thomas had 22 carries to lead the Utes. Micah Bernard had five carries, but didn’t look like he was all the way back. Ja’Quinden Jackson and Jaylon Glover, injured in last week’s game against Arizona, did not play against Stanford, so Thomas may have a heavy workload going forward.

If Saturday was any indication, he’s up for it.

Simote Pepa, DT

It was a great showing by freshman defensive tackle Simote Pepa against Stanford.

Pepa led Utah’s defense with six tackles. He had three tackles for loss and two sacks.

He was vital to Utah’s defensive gameplan, which overwhelmed the Cardinal’s depleted offensive line and quarterback Tanner McKee all game long.

Pepa is performing well and has a bright career ahead of him at Utah.

“He is turning into a really good football player. This year he has made a concerted effort to get himself into better shape. He has much quicker and more stamina, and he’s just a young buck. He has a lot of football left in him. We settled in mid-season on that three-tackle rotation with Junior Tafuna, Aliki Vimahi, and Pepa being that third guy,” Whittingham said.

Kolinu’u Faaiu, OL

Utah played most of the game with its third-string center and it wasn’t even noticeable.

Kolinu’u Faaiu replaced Johnny Maea, Utah’s second-string center, in the second quarter after Maea got hurt. Utah’s first-string center, Paul Maile, is also out with an injury.

There was no noticeable dropoff, as Utah continued its run game dominance and protected Cam Rising well.

“Koli played outstanding at center. He came in and we didn’t miss a beat. His first experience as a Power Five football player and his first game experience of any extent — he’s been in a snap or two here or there. Very proud of Koli and what he did,” Whittingham said.