This was originally going to be placed in the upcoming Links And Reflections piece, but it got a little long, so I thought I would isolate it.
We got to experience both types of knee injuries yesterday in Missouri's 17-5 win over Texas. Early in the game, Texas' Fozzy Whittaker went down with an injury of the "he was running, then he just fell to the ground" variety; then, in the third quarter, Henry Josey got tackled and pirouetted to the ground about as awkwardly as you possibly can. We knew at that moment that he might be done for the season, and apparently he is. Official word came out from the university this morning: he indeed has a ruptured tendon and two torn ligaments (ACL, MCL).
When I saw Howard Richards' tweet last night, I was a shaken up. Not necessarily because of Mizzou, however. The Tigers have dealt with an incredible number of injuries this year, and this is one more, but the silver lining is that Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore, whose respective injuries opened the door for Josey in the first place, are back and healthy (or in Moore's case, at least mostly healthy). Lawrence is not Josey, of course. As I put it in comments earlier this morning, "Josey is much more efficient and decisive. Lawrence probably has as much speed and skill in the second level as Josey, but Josey reaches the second level more because Lawrence dances and runs horizontally too much." Against Texas Tech and Kansas, Lawrence and Moore should suffice.
I do feel sorry for two people, however:
1) Henry Josey. If the injury is as bad as it appears, then he is in for a long recovery. Maybe he's ready for 2012, maybe not. Maybe it takes him a full 12 months to reach 100% health and stability, and then when he does reach 100%, maybe it takes him a while to trust the knee again. (Lord knows he's got quite a potential confidant in one mister Danario Alexander.) He faces an extreme, uphill battle, and while I am optimistic about his eventual recovery, it is going to be an incredible challenge.
2) Myself. And other Tiger fans, of course. Never mind the impact this has on Mizzou's offense -- I just love watching Henry Josey run with the football. His vision, his decisiveness and his instincts are something I haven't really seen before in black and gold. The season he was having wasn't quite as rewarding as Danario's 2009 campaign (for all of his exploits, he wasn't returning from a serious injury), but it still filled me with that same "Oh wow, we've got something special here" feeling.
When you become a fan, you are really hoping for two things: wins and glimpses of greatness. This is sad because sports are designed for most teams to lose in the end; perhaps more cruel than wins and losses, however, is when greatness is taken away from you sooner than you expect. In college sports, you know you are starting, basically, a 50-game (or so) relationship with a player. At best, now, we are being deprived of 2-3 games of Henry Josey. If it takes him a full year to recover, then next year we get either a 70%-healthy Josey (like Danario in 2008), or we're pressing the pause button with a redshirt year. Either way, we thought we would get to watch Josey do great, Josey-esque things next week, the week after and (hopefully) in a bowl game. Now we don't get to watch that. And we thought we would be getting to watch Josey lead Missouri into SEC play as their marquee player. Now that is in serious jeopardy.
As Gary Pinkel always says regarding injuries, move 'em up and move 'em over. Lawrence and Moore are now Missouri's running backs, and Mizzou will still be very much favored to win the next two football games and move to 7-5, with a chance of 8-5 in a bowl game. Considering the injuries, the youth and the brutal schedule, this would be a phenomenal accomplishment. But the going just got a bit more difficult, and more importantly, we just got deprived of a few glimpses of greatness. And that, to put it simply, sucks.
(One last note: I have never really lacked respect for him by any means, but my respect forgrew infinitely yesterday when he jogged across the field to console Josey. That was an incredibly, wonderfully classy move, and I both thank and commend him for it.)
The Trib: Josey’s injury puts damper on victory
The Missourian: Win over Texas clouded by injury to Henry Josey
KC Star: Knee injury ends Josey's breakout season at Mizzou
Post-Dispatch: Josey reaches milestone, then suffers knee injury
KBIA Sports Extra: Mizzou gets a big win over Texas but suffers a big loss with Josey injury
KBIA Sports Extra: Josey suffers serious injury, a risk every athlete takes every play, every game
CBS Sports: Mizzou loses Henry Josey for the season
College Football Talk: Mizzou loses leading rusher to devastating knee injury