Tenny Palepoi simply called it disruption.
Indeed, the numbers bear that out. By the end of Utah’s 70-7 win over Weber State on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the senior defensive lineman had eight tackles. The official statistics credited him with 1.5 sacks, but he was in on at least three. He had 2.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He was certainly disruptive.
Palepoi’s big game
» 8 tackles (5 solo)
» 1.5 sacks
» 2.5 tackles for loss
But it goes a little deeper than that. With Utah needing a guy to plug the middle with Star Lotulelei gone, it seems as if Palepoi is the answer — at least through the first two weeks of the season. And with the Utes needing their defensive line to generate pressure without having to sacrifice bodies by blitzing, Palepoi led the charge, leading his team in sacks and tackles for losses.
"We all just wanted to be accounted for as a defensive line," Palepoi said. "It was important to get across the line of scrimmage and make plays. It was important to go out and play well.
"That’s something our whole D-line took upon ourselves. We didn’t do a great job of that against Utah State, so we took that as a goal."
Yes, beating Weber State was expected, but the Utah defense shut out a team in the first half that scored 50 points in its opening-week victory. Led by Palepoi, the defense allowed the Wildcats across midfield just once in the opening two quarters.
The defense recorded seven sacks — the most since getting Alabama eight times in the program-defining Sugar Bowl win of 2008. Surrendering the shutout in the second half was about the only thing Utah did wrong defensively.
Palepoi said that he put a lot of pressure on himself to lead a defense that came into 2013 with question marks. The biggest of them is how to replace Lotulelei, a first round pick of the Carolina Panthers.
At least on Saturday, Palepoi answered many of those questions in droves. Needing a defense to come out and make a statement, Palepoi’s performance stood out in only a half of work.
"Tenny’s the guy who’s the leader of the defensive," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "He’s the guy who fills Star Lotulelei’s role and he played well this afternoon."
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