The University of Washington defensive line, largely responsible for Utah piling up 215 yards rushing, is an area still in need of refinement, coach Jimmy Lake acknowledged following the Huskies' pulsating 24-21 victory.
Fortunately for the Huskies and Lake, it appears that reinforcements are finally on the way.
Sophomore defensive tackle Tuli Letuligasenoa, originally pegged as a starter, made his season debut on Saturday night, subbing in on a couple of fourth-down running situations. He looked rusty at first but came up with a huge play.
Early in the game, Letuligasenoa and Taki Taimani couldn't prevent Utah from converting a fourth-and-4 run at the Husky 42, but they stuffed a fourth-and-1 attempt by the Utes at the UW 41 in the third quarter.
"That was a huge step for our defense," Lake said of the second-half stop. "It created all types of energy on our sideline. Everyone was going crazy."
A 6-foot-2, 305-pound sophomore, Letuligasenoa sat out the Huskies' first two games, presumably for some sort of injury or maybe even a pandemic illness, though Lake won't address the reason behind any of his players' absences, citing strategic reasons.
No Bowman or Newton
While Letuligasenoa returned, the UW played without senior outside linebacker Ryan Bowman, a starter for the first two games, and sophomore running back Richard Newton, who was coming off an 81-yard, 2-touchdown performance, including a 54-yard breakaway score. No reason was given for their unavailability.
Gordon gets a shot
Sophomore cornerback Kyler Gordon came off the bench and played much of the second half for senior Keith Taylor, causing a fumble with a big hit early in the fourth quarter. He might have earned himself a starting job.
Culp moves up
Sophomore Devin Culp was on the field for the first play in a two tight-end set, which technically made him a starter, though the stats didn't show it. He played much more than he had in the previous two games after dropping to third or fourth string to begin the season.
Latu still MIA at OLB
The Huskies played once more without outside linebacker Laiatu Latu, listed as a starter entering the season but missing for the first three games. There's no explanation on his status, whether he's been injured or ill.
Big minutes for Smalls
With Bowman out, freshman outside linebacker Sav'ell Smalls received extended playing time, finishing with a career-best 5 tackles. The Huskies used him in multiple rotations.
"For a true freshman in his third game, that's pretty impressive," Lake said. "He's another guy who's going to continue to get better, the more comfortable he gets playing college football. He's nowhere even near his ceiling. He's going to be a big-time player for us."
Jacob Sirmon, the UW's backup quarterback, didn't play against Utah, but he had a big change over a week's time. He cut off all of his curly blond hair, which reached all the way to his shoulders. It appeared his head is shaved now.
Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven
Find Husky Maven on Facebook by searching: HuskyMaven/Sports Illustrated
Click the "follow" button in the top right corner to join the conversation on Husky Maven. Access and comment on featured stories and start your own conversations and post external links on our community page.