The status of Utah running back Tavion Thomas has been a topic of concern for most of the season.

Against USC on Saturday, the former all-conference tailback ran it just eight times for 28 yards. After the game, ESPN 700 reported that Thomas had taken off his pads and left the game early. Video of the celebration from the field immediately after time expired showed Thomas running off the field by himself with his jersey on but no shoulder pads.

Coach Kyle Whittingham was asked about Thomas’ status after the game and said he wasn’t aware of any instance of Thomas leaving the game early. He was asked once again about the tailback’s status at his bye week press conference earlier this week and kept it coy.

“We’ll keep all that internal, regardless of what it is, unless there’s something very permanent in nature,” Whittingham said.

Following the death of his aunt, with whom Thomas was very close, Thomas went home to Dayton, Ohio. When he returned, he sat out the first half of the Arizona State game. He ended up rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries, but Whittingham said after he was “available physically” in the first half but the plan was only to play him in the second half.

“Sometimes things happen and you’ve got to make certain moves,” he said then. “That was an internal thing. Tavion is healthy and fine.”

In the days that followed, Whittingham cited “consistency” and “accountability” both on and off the field as things that would help Thomas get back into the rotation. He ran the ball just six times for 13 yards in the Utes’ 42-16 win over Oregon State the following week.

Thomas had 18 carries against UCLA. Micah Bernard has 11 in each of the last two weeks. Utah threw the ball 35 times over the final three quarters against USC while running it just 24 times.

“The playcalls were such that we were just throwing the ball, throwing the ball, and his (Thomas) number didn’t come up much in that second half.”

Thomas said last week that he felt like “the train was having maintenance,” and that it was good to see family for the first time in a while. Whittingham said in the run-up to the USC game the situation was “much better” and they were hoping to see a similar breakout stretch from Thomas like the one he enjoyed beginning with the USC game last season.

For whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

Thomas had a message for anyone thinking it can’t.