By Rick Eymer
Stanford's defensive front took another hit over the weekend. Senior defensive end Ben Gardner suffered a pectoral injury that will keep him out the remainder of the season.
In a statement released through the media relations department, Gardner wrote about his reaction to the injury.
"As my Stanford Football career has come to an abrupt and unexpected close, millions of thoughts are flying through my head," Gardner wrote. "While this is not the way I had imagined my college playing days ending, all I can do is look up and thank God for one heck of a ride."
Defensive end Henry Anderson, who was hurt earlier in the year, will resume individual drills this week, though his status for next Thursday's (Nov. 7) game against Oregon remains questionable.
"It's tough on Ben because he's been playing with pain for about a month with an unrelated injury," Cardinal football coach David Shaw said Tuesday. "If we have inexperience up front, we'll have to put more pressure on the guys with more experience, as in the secondary."
Gardner, a two-time all-Pac-12 pick, was hurt early in the third quarter on Saturday. He had been playing with an arm injury that needed an occasional rest.
"That hurts a lot as a team and hurts more as a friend," Stanford linebacker A.J. Tarpley said. "He is a coach for us. He knows so much about the game. He teaches the younger guys and helps the older guys because he sees things on the field. I know he'll do what he needs to do to get things done."
Gardner recorded 19 tackles this year, including 7 1/2 for a loss, 4 1/2 quarterback sacks.
"Ben came in here as a two-star recruit and did nothing but work his rear off to get to where he is now," Shaw said. "He has a chance to play at the next level."
Senior outside linebacker Blake Lueders was moved to defensive end to help fill the void when Anderson went down. He'll likely see his playing time increase significantly along with junior defensive tackle Anthony Hayes.
"He's playing hard and keeps getting better," Stanford defensive end Josh Mauro said of Lueders. "The more snaps he gets, the better he'll be. He will come into his own."
Mauro saw his value rise when Anderson was hurt. He knows the significance of Gardner's injury.
"It hurts everybody," Mauro said. "He's one of my best friends and I don't think it has set in that I'm not going to play with him again at Stanford. You can't replace what Ben brings."
Shaw said there are others who are close to being ready to play at defensive end and may have to play whether they are ready or not.
Stopping Oregon's full-throttle offense is hard enough and without Gardner and/or Anderson, it's all the harder.
"If we're not fully manned it's ridiculously difficult," Shaw said. "You have to be healthy and be in position."
Shaw also said that Jordan Williamson will resume kicking this week and wide receiver Devon Cajuste will not practice through the end of this week.
The remainder of Gardner's statement:
"During my five years at Stanford, I was fortunate enough to start 34 games, compete in three BCS Bowl Games, and win a Pac-12 Championship.
"Along the way, I was able to play with countless NFL stars, learn from dozens of great coaches, and work with a group of men who I consider to be my family on a daily basis.
"For these reasons, I consider myself one of the luckiest 22-year-old men on the planet. Although this injury will undoubtedly make my transition to professional football more challenging, I have never been one to back down from a challenge, and I like my chances.
"People have doubted me for my entire career and they will continue to do so, but I trust that my experiences at Stanford have put me in a position where I cannot fail.
"In the meantime, I will fulfill my duties as a team captain, and I'll be right there alongside my boys when we finish our journey towards the Pac-12 Championship. What we do here at Stanford is special, and I can't wait to soak it all in over the next two months with my brothers."