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Karl Williams called it redemption.

Indeed, it may have been. It took so long for Utah's senior running back to make his way up the depth chart and on to the field. He barely touched the ball in the first half of the Utes' 30-26 comeback win over Utah State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

So what does he do on one of his first carries of the third quarter? He fumbles with Utah driving. He turned it over.

"I knew I didn't want to get down on myself," Williams said. "I knew coach [Dennis] Erickson had faith in me and I had to take advantage of that. I had to run the ball the right way. Redemption was definitely in my head."

Armed with a second chance, Williams became Utah's feature back for most of the second half. In all, he carried the ball 12 times for 45 yards, both career highs.

He scored the touchdown that put the Utes ahead 24-23. It was the first score of his career.

Most importantly, Williams provided Utah with a much-needed ground game. It was something that coach Kyle Whittingham sharply criticized following a win that required the Utes pull a little magic.

"We need much more out of the running game going forward," Whiitingham would say.

Williams entered Thursday night third on the depth chart. Eleven of his 12 carries came following halftime. Kelvin York started and received 10 carries, mustering 32 yards. But six of those came in the first quarter. James Poole was much more active as the game went on, but was also inconsistent.

It was Williams — a former standout at Layton High — who provided that consistency. He grounded out tough yards on the interior. In the final four minutes, with Utah running the clock, he came up with a key first down.

His touchdown came only after breaking multiple tackles when USU was attempting to come up with a goal-line stand.

"He was very good for us tonight," Utes quarterback Travis Wilson said. "He did exactly what we needed him to do, which is come up with the tough yards. He's a great running back, and I'm excited to see what he can do for us this year."

tjones@sltrib.comTwitter: @tjonessltrib

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