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Utah football: O-line dominated Stanford — with a third-string center

Utah’s offense ran all over Stanford last Saturday, to the tune of 279 yards on the ground.

Running back Tavion Thomas rushed for a career-high 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Some may not have realized that the Ute offensive line was playing with its third-string center — redshirt freshman Kolinu’u Faaiu from Edmonds, Washington. 

“They’ve been playing great all season but their level of play just continues to rise and it’s promising to see.” — Utah QB Cam Rising on play of offensive line

Utah’s second-string center, Johnny Maea, suffered an injury in the second quarter against the Cardinal. Starter Paul Maile has been sidelined with an injury. 

Coach Kyle Whittingham is hopeful that either Maile or Maea will be ready for Oregon Saturday (8:30 p.m. MST, ESPN).

Whittingham praised Faaiu’s efforts last week. 

“At center, (Faaiu) came in and didn’t miss a beat. He graded out exceptionally well,” he said. “He answered the bell and was ready to play. … For his first experience as a Power Five football player and first game experience of any extent, very proud of Coli and what he did.”

Whittingham credited offensive line coach Jim Harding

“Jim Harding is one of the best O-line coaches in the country at any level,” he said. “He gets his guys ready.”

Case in point — Faaiu stepping in for Maea and Maile.

“That tells you about his ability to prepare a group and put a product out there regardless of circumstances,” Whittingham said. 

Quarterback Cam Rising likes the way the entire O-line has played all season. 

“They’ve been playing great all season but their level of play just continues to rise and it’s promising to see,” he said, adding that what Faaiu did was impressive. 

“It’s big-time. That whole group does everything right,” Rising said. “They’re making sure that they’re preparing. Whether they’re first (string), second or third, they’re going to be ready to go. That’s just the mentality of the room. Props to coach Harding for doing that so well and getting them on board.”

How does left tackle Braeden Daniels describe the O-line play this season? 

“The chemistry is coming together even more so than the past. We’re really taking a step forward,” he said. “We have to come out there with a great attitude and we have to play with passion and energy. It’s going to be a great atmosphere this weekend and we’re ready for the challenge.”

Whittingham is pleased with the offensive line heading into a huge game against Oregon. 

“We’re in a good place. We’ve got some guys banged up but we have a lot of continuity and production out of the O-line throughout the course of the season,” he said. “That’s going back to their coach, Jim Harding, who does a great job with those guys. They respond well to him. He’s one of the best offensive line coaches in the country.”

Utes on the air

No. 13 Utah (8-2, 6-1)

at No. 6 Oregon (8-2, 6-1)

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. MST

Autzen Stadium


Radio: ESPN 700

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