Freshman outside linebacker Sav'ell Smalls began to leave the field on a fourth-and-1 against Utah, figuring he would be replaced by someone a lot bigger. The Washington coaches waved him back.
They wanted Smalls.
They kept him on the field for one of the biggest moments of the game. Smalls shared in the ensuing defensive stop, one that kept enabled the Huskies to overcome a 21-0 halftime deficit and win 24-21.
The first-year player, a 5-star recruit from Kennedy Catholic High School, saw his most extensive action yet as the Huskies played without senior Ryan Bowman, who missed the game for unexplained reasons.
Smalls did well, finishing with 5 tackles. He was versatile, playing many roles, rotating in and out of different alignments.
"Sav'ell is an extremely bright, smart football player," Husky coach Jimmy Lake said. "We're able to put him in our different personnel groupings that we have on defense. That's why you're seeing him line up in multiple spots. For a true freshman, playing in his third football game, that's pretty impressive."
On the play before the fourth-down stop, the Huskies lined him up as a down lineman on third-and-5.
Smalls and inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio teamed up to hold Utah's Devin Brumfield to a 4-yard gain, preventing the first down.
The big interior bodies of Sam Taimani, Zion Tupuola-Fetui and Josiah Bronson plugged up the middle on that third-down play as Smalls pinched the tight end inside to jam up an interior hole. Smalls was able to disengage the tight end enough to make sure that the Utes ball carrier could not bounce the run outside.Bronson was credited with the tackle, but it took all of those guys to make it happen, including Smalls, appearing in just his third Husky game.
Lake singled out Smalls for praise, noting that the freshman is just getting started as an impact player.
"He's another guy who's going to continue to get better the more comfortable he gets playing college football," Lake said. "We're excited. He's nowhere even near his ceiling. He's going to be a big-time player for the Dawgs."