Tavion Thomas rushed for 160 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead Utah past UCLA 44-24 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.
On a night that Utah retired the No. 22 in honor of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, Thomas became the first Ute to rush for at least three touchdowns in one game since Jordan in his final game last December.
Jordan was killed in an accidental shooting one week later, and Lowe — who adopted the No. 22 in Jordan’s honor — died in a shooting on Sept. 26.
Utah (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) started the emotional night with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped on Thomas’ first score, a 10-yard run. The Utes led for the remainder after that opening possession, and Thomas’ touchdowns of eight and 10 yards in the second quarter pushed the lead to 28-10.
Quarterback Cam Rising went 17-of-27 passing for 179 yards and found tight end Dalton Kincaid for an eight-yard touchdown late in the first half.
After UCLA trimmed the deficit to 12 points on an Ethan Garbers pass to tight end Michael Ezeike, Rising capped an 11-play drive with a 12-yard touchdown run to push the lead back to three possessions.
The Bruins (5-4, 3-3) threatened again in the fourth quarter when Garbers threw a nine-yard touchdown to Greg Dulcich but could never cut the deficit to single digits. Utah capitalized on a Rising quick-kick of 43 yards that pinned UCLA at its own six-yard line.
Defensive tackle Hauati Pututau got to Garbers for a sack and safety. On the Utes’ ensuing possession after the free kick, Thomas went 24 yards for his final touchdown and an exclamation point on the win.
Rising and running back T.J. Pledger added 63 and 61 yards rushing. Utah finished with 290 rushing yards as a team.
Running back Zach Charbonnet led UCLA with 65 yards, 30 of which came on a touchdown run in the first half. Backfield mate Brittain Brown rushed for 45 yards on 10 carries and caught six passes for 53 yards.
Garbers went 27-of-44 passing for 265 yards and was picked off by linebacker Nephi Sewell.
Saturday’s win gives Utah breathing room heading into the final month of the Pac-12 South divisional race. Arizona State’s loss earlier in the day to Washington State leaves Utah atop the division in the loss column, and the Utes now boast head-to-head wins over nearest competitors Arizona State, USC and UCLA.
–Field Level Media