MORGANTOWN — Forget the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
What we need is a vaccine to stem the epidemic that is striking down college quarterbacks across the nation.
It hit home on Saturday when West Virginia’s Jarrett Brown took a pair of rapid-fire helmet-to-helmet hits on the fourth play of the game against Marshall, leaving him with a mild concussion that threatens to keep him out of this week’s game.
While Stewart maintained Brown was still day-to-day, he did not sound optimistic about his chances to play this Saturday against a grieving Connecticut team that had a real tragedy to deal with when cornerback Jasper Howard died from a stab wound on Saturday night.
“I don’t know Jarrett won’t play,” Stewart said, “but I don’t know that he will. It’s more my opinion that he won’t than he will.”
If he doesn’t play, Geno Smith will get his first collegiate start, Coley White will be the backup and Stewart will have a package of plays for Bradley Starks, the emergency quarterback who starts at wide receiver.
To play, Brown has to practice and when the team went out in helmets and vests on Sunday, he couldn’t even dress up. Stewart said that Brown would have to practice by Wednesday to play this week.
Brown is only one of many top line quarterbacks to be felled by injury this season. On Saturday, Heisman winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma reinjured his shoulder and may be out for the season. Earlier, the previous year’s Heisman winner Tim Tebow of No. 1 Florida suffered a concussion and had to miss a game.
The Big East has been hit hard by the quarterback injury epidemic.
South Florida, one of the favorites to win the Big East, had the conference’s all-time leader in total yardage, Matt Groethe taken down by knee injury.
Then last week Cincinnati’s Tony Pike, who has led the team into a No. 5 national ranking, went down with a forearm injury and had to be relieved against South Florida, Zach Collaros had to come in and help engineer the victory, running for 132 yards and two touchdowns while completing 4 of 7 passes for 72 yards.
Brian Kelly, Pike’s coach at Cincinnati, has had to deal quite a bit with quarterback injuries. Last year Pike broke his left (non-throwing) arm and had a plate and six screws put in it. The plate moved when Pike was hit.
Kelly is not sure what will happen this week as he works Pike, Collaros and Chazz Anderson at the position. He said he will have the two backups ready should Pike not go.
“I want to practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and see where Tony is before I make decision. He doesn’t need much practice. He can do the mental reps,” Kelly said.
Kelly has learned to accept the risk you run when you put your quarterback in a spread offense.
“You know a quarterback in the spread offense has a chance of getting hurt,” Kelly said. “You have to get your No. 2 ready.”
The epidemic of injuries has a number of people calling for rules changes to protect the quarterback, although most coaches aren’t sure that is the answer.
“I see it as the nature of the beast,” he said when asked if there should be rules changes. “If you don’t want your quarterback hit, maybe put a fullback in there.”
Louisville Coach Steve Kragthorpe, speaking on Monday’s Big East coaches conference call, said he believes that something has to be done in the rules.
“I do think you have to do more to protect the quarterback, particularly on low hits,” he said.
That is something the NFL is doing now, having learned a lesson last year when its superstar quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots went down to knee injury on a low hit.
“They’ve got to call hits to the head, too,” Kragthorpe said. “Not all are being called.”
One that wasn’t was the one that felled Brown, the Conference USA officials overlooking the infraction.
The college quarterbacks are more susceptible to injury because they run out of the spread offense often and are used to carry the ball more than NFL quarterbacks.
Pitt Coach Dave Wannstedt has been fortunate in that his quarterback Bill Stull has played all year.
“The offensive line has done a nice job [or protecting him] and we try not to do a whole lot of things with him holding onto the ball,” Wannstedt said, going mostly out of a pro set and emphasizing the running of tailbacks.
“Of course,” he continued, “Billy got hurt in the first game of his first year here [and was out all season]. That’s why you don’t see much of what we do in college in the NFL. Those guys are paid $15 million a year. You don’t want them getting hit every play.”
The injury situation in some ways created the Wildcat offense that is now sweeping football.
“Pro football has gone to the Wildcat,” Kragthorpe noted. “It’s the old single wing. Miami can have Ron Brown as the quarterback on runs intead of Chad Pennington or Chad Henne.”
The Dolphins also have former WVU quarterback Patrick White to run the Wildcat but they haven’t used him there often yet.
Simply put, though, the quarterback is going to be in jeopardy when he runs no matter what.
“In the last 10 years the speed and the size of the athletes have increased,” Kragthorpe said. “It’s simple physics. Mass and speed equals the force of the hit.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.
Big East teams trying to keep QBs on the field
MORGANTOWN — Forget the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.
- Bob Herzel
HERTZEL COLUMN: Would a 4-point shot help or hurt basketball?
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, Rod Thorn was throwing basketballs down for West Virginia University, an in-state heir to the heritage of greatness Jerry West had established.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Saints to be pampered at Greenbrier
Somewhere Tommy Nobis is shaking his head.
His name now is little more than a fading memory to old-timers, but back in the mid-1960s, as he ended a College Football Hall of Fame career at Texas, he was the real deal, the first player ever drafted and signed by the Atlanta Falcons.
Odds against WVU making tourney
It was hard, really hard, for Bob Huggins to let go of the dream he’d been chasing, the dream of returning to the NCAA Tournament this year.
See, March Madness seemed to be his birthright. Year after year from Cincinnati to West Virginia University he had been there, 20 times in 27 years as a head coach. He’d made it to a pair of Final Fours and four Elite Eights.
WVU saves worst for last in 66-49 loss to Longhorns
West Virginia University saved the worst for last.
In a game the Mountaineers had to win to have any chance to advance to the NCAA Championships, the Mountaineers played so badly that their membership in the NCAA is liable to be questioned, losing to Texas, 66-49, to be eliminated from the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Worley forced to grow up fast for WVU
The roster says Daryl Worley is a sophomore.
Talk to him and you’d swear he was a senior.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Buie, Mendenhall the latest RBs to shun the spotlight
This past August, Andrew Buie, a talented West Virginia University running back who had been the team’s leading rusher the previous season, left the team and returned home, saying he needed to take the season off.
WVU faces unwelcome opponent to kick off Big 12 tournament
If West Virginia University’s players and coaches could have voted on the one team they didn’t want to meet in the first round of the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Tournament, it would have been the University of Texas, but as fate would have it the Mountaineers take the floor facing none other than the Longhorns of Austin.
WVU-Alabama game to bring in $3.2M
Perhaps you wondered why West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck would schedule national power Alabama to open a football season in which his team is coming off a 4-8 year and is filled with questions, including at quarterback.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Carey transforms WVU women into national contender
This column was supposed to come the day after West Virginia University had beaten Baylor in the final of the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championships, the day after the Mountaineers had performed one more last-minute miracle and enjoyed a second moment of cutting down the nets with a championship trophy theirs.
WVU loses close battle to Baylor, 74-71
West Virginia University’s dream of a Big 12 Tournament championship did not come true, but it wasn’t because they didn’t play like champions.
- More Bob Herzel Headlines
- HERTZEL COLUMN: Would a 4-point shot help or hurt basketball?