Minnesota is adjusting this week to the reality that the Big Ten’s active leader in career rushing yards won’t be on the field for the Golden Gophers for the rest of the year.
Rodney Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury three snaps into Minnesota’s win over Fresno State last Saturday, another setback for a backfield that lost returning running back Shannon Brooks to an injury in the spring.
Coach P.J. Fleck said Minnesota plans to file for a medical redshirt year for Smith, something that would provide a sixth year of eligibility for a player who has been the Gophers’ most valuable player in each of the past two seasons.
"He meets all the criteria," Fleck said. "Understanding that and realizing the possibility has been a big sigh of relief for Rodney."
Fleck plans to keep Smith involved as much as he can with a young Golden Gophers offense.
"It’s hard on everybody when you lose a player like Rodney, but he understands that we still need his leadership," Fleck said. "We need whatever he can contribute to our football team, and he has been a great leader on the practice field this week. He’s here for his teammates."
True freshman Bryce Williams replaced Smith last weekend and is the likely starter this week against Miami (Ohio), but Fleck isn’t ruling out a return for Brooks.
Brooks suffered a non-contact injury during the spring, and Fleck said during the preseason that with college football’s new redshirt rule, it is possible that he could see some spot duty in up to four games at some point in the season if his body is healthy enough to compete.
Fleck has made it clear that he doesn’t plan to play Brooks in more than four games, allowing him to return in 2019 as well, but he reportedly did see his first limited contact work of the season on the practice field this week.
Injured Illini: A.J. Bush will be Illinois’ starting quarterback in Saturday’s Soldier Field match-up with South Florida if he is cleared to go after a hamstring injury sidelined him during last week’s win over Western Illinois.
"A.J. will tell you he’s good to go, but we’ll see how it goes this week," Illini coach Lovie Smith said.
True freshman M.J. Rivers II led the Fighting Illini on five touchdown drives as Illinois rallied for a 34-14 win that saw true freshman receiver Edwin Carter suffer a season-ending knee injury on his second touchdown catch of the game.
Carter’s right knee buckled as he was hit in mid-air while making the catch, ending his season.
Illinois lost senior starting receiver Mike Dudek for the year to a knee injury in its season-opening win over Kent State.
Moving on: Nebraska coach Scott Frost is moving on after submitting tape to both the Big Ten and Pac-12 of circumstances that surrounded an injury to quarterback Adrian Martinez in Saturday’s loss to Colorado.
Frost said Tuesday he will no longer discuss what transpired in the fourth quarter of the Cornhuskers' season-opening defeat.
At least one angle caught on tape of the play during which Martinez was injured appeared to show Colorado linebacker Jacob Callier twisting the right leg of Nebraska's starting quarterback.
The injury has Martinez listed as questionable for Saturday’s game against Troy.
"We’ll figure it out as it goes along, but we’re doing our best to get every quarterback on our roster at least familiar enough with the gameplan to be able to go out there and function," Frost said.
Another test: Things don’t get any easier for this week for Purdue.
The Boilermakers fell to 0-2 last week when former Iowa quarterback Tyler Wiegers threw for 312 yards including a 75-yard touchdown pass to lead Eastern Michigan to a 20-19 win at Ross-Ade Stadium.
While Wiegers was named the offensive player of the week in the Mid-American Conference West Division after completing 20-of-28 passes, Purdue went back to work to prepare for a Saturday night home game against Missouri.
"Right now, Missouri is playing at a high level and we’re not," Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm said. "We have to find a way to improve this week."
Idle thoughts: Michigan State is idle this week after dropping a 16-13 game at Arizona State last week, time that coach Mark Dantonio said is needed to get his team refocused.
"Our goals haven’t changed. Our goal is to always compete for championships in November, to be playing for Big Ten championships," Dantonio said.
"You have to play well in September and October to put yourself in that position. It’s about what we do now to put us in a position to play in meaningful games later on."
The Spartans open league play next week against Indiana.