Stanford loses another running back to injury

Jason Evans will miss rest of football season after suffering a torn ACL in win over Arizona

At this point of the season, Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh perhaps is hoping just to finish the year with someone healthy enough to carry the ball.

Redshirt senior running back Jason Evans, who started the season off the depth chart but moved into a starting job due to injuries, has joined those injured teammates on the sideline.

Evans suffered a torn ACL in his left knee after being hit from behind in the fourth quarter of Stanford's 21-20 victory over host Arizona on Saturday in Tucson.

"I'm still look forward to a lot of good times for this team this season," said Evans. "Somebody will step in and do well. That's what everybody has done so far. I still think we can reach our goal to make a bowl game."

The injury to Evans, who finished the game with a career-high 78 yards and his second career TD, forced Harbaugh to bring injured freshman Jeremy Stewart into the game. That one play resulted in Stewart's one-yard touchdown plunge that stood for the winning points.

Evans most likely would have scored that winning touchdown, had he not suffered his season-ending injury.

"It's a big blow to the team and to him personally," Harbaugh said of Evans. "He turned in a real solid performance."

The injury to Evans is just another blow to a Stanford football team that has been battling through injuries all season.

Stanford lost one fullback before the season even started, and then lost a starting linebacker, a starting offensive lineman, a starting quarterback and the starting tight end in successive weeks.

It's a wonder the Cardinal was even competitive last Saturday.

It was only fitting, then, that Stewart scored the game-winning touchdown in Stanford's win over Arizona in a Pac-10 Conference contest. It was Stewart's first career touchdown and it gave Stanford its fourth straight win in Tucson.

Stewart, a true freshman, was the emergency backup running back. He wasn't supposed to play because of an injured shoulder. Harbaugh, however, needed him for one play and Stewart carried the weight of the game across the goal line.

"I could worry about the injury later," Stewart said afterward. "When they sent me in, I was just worried about getting into the end zone."

The Cardinal (2-3, 3-4) has another chance to add luster to the season when it travels to Corvallis for a 3:30 p.m. game against Oregon State, a team with its own 'giant killer' tag after beating then No. 2 California two weeks ago.

The Cardinal roster is littered with unfamiliar names and shifting positions as the coaching staff tries to plug holes left by injuries.

Evans filled in for the injured Anthony Kimble, who had filled in for the injured Toby Gerhart. Kimble and Gerhart, by the way, are Stanford's first 100-yard rushers in several years.

Kimble is still questionable for this weekend while Gerhart is "possible" to face the Beavers, according to Harbaugh.

When Evans got hurt against the Wildcats, it left Stanford with exactly zero experienced running backs. Hooray for Tyrone McGraw, a redshirt freshman, who helped balance the running attack by rushing for his career-high of 50 yards.

Harbaugh said Tuesday that if the Oregon State game was played that day, McGraw would be in the starting backfield.

But, Gerhart now has a few more days to get ready.

"The running game didn't slack at all," Evans said. "The O-line played their heart out. They blocked everybody. I couldn't ask for any more, coming in and trying to replace Anthony."

Sophomore Chris Marinelli, the right tackle, is the lone offensive lineman who is in the same position in which he finished last year. Left tackle Ben Muth replaced starter Allen Smith the past few weeks after Smith's season ended with an injury. Left guard Mikal Brewer ended last year as the starting center. Center Tim Mattran was unavailable last year because of a high ankle sprain. Right guard Alex Fletcher moved to center last year.

Wide receivers Evan Moore and Mark Bradford were out with injuries most of last year, Tavita Pritchard is the quarterback because of T.C. Ostrander's seizure a day after the loss to Arizona State, and freshman Owen Marecic stepped in for Emeka Nnoli, who was forced to retire from football during the preseason.

Receiver Richard Sherman, who was a backup to begin last year, is the only other player on the offensive side of things to return to where he left off.

Austin Gunder or Ben Ladner (a defensive lineman when he first showed up on campus) will make a start at tight end after Jim Dray was lost for the season with an injury.

"Their mindset is they just go out and play," Harbaugh said. "The only thing we really concern ourselves with is how they play. They're playing hard, and they're playing all out. They're playing confident."

Sophomore linebacker Will Powers, who recovered the fumble that secured last week's win and is now a candidate to start, was converted to tight end earlier this season. After Fred Campbell suffered his career-ending injury, Powers went back to the defensive side.

He's not alone. Erik Lorig and Austin Yancy each came over to the defensive side after playing offense (tight end and wide receiver respectively) last year.

Defensive end Pannel Egboth, linebacker Pat Maynor, linebacker Clinton Snyder and cornerback Wopamo Osaisai are the lone defenders who returned to the same position. Freshman Chike Amajoyi was recruited as a running back but will get plenty of playing time at a linebacker spot the rest of the season. Nick Sanchez, Bo McNally, Chris Horn and Ekom Udofia all made position changes.

Somehow the whole thing has been working better than ever.

"We're growing up a lot," Defensive end Udeme Udofia said. "We're trying to bring the young guys along and change the culture around here. For the guys who are just learning how to win again, it's been a while since there's been a great Stanford team. We're on our way to restoring that legacy our program once had."

One surprising victory at a time.


Like this comment
Posted by southflorida
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 24, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Nick Sanchez did not change positions from last year. Except when injured he has been the starter at cornerback since his sophmore year.

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