By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
At least one epidemic in Abilene is more rampant than the West Nile Virus: the injury bug.
The ACU football team has found itself battling more than just its opponents, as recent injuries have put key Wildcat players out of commission.
In Saturday’s 41-7 loss to Tarleton State, the Cats lost three starters, including one for the season.
Junior right guard Cody Stewart broke his left fibula during the first half of the game when his leg was trapped under a pile of players. He had surgery on Tuesday to heal the fracture but will miss the rest of the season.
“I’m kind of disappointed,” Stewart said following his surgery. “I thought I was having a really good season and thought I was gonna get better, but this kind of detoured my plans.”
Senior safety Dawon Gentry had a scary moment in the second half of the game when he bruised his spinal cord trying to make a tackle.
“I was scared,” Gentry said. “My leg was kinda numb and I wasn’t moving. It kinda caught me off guard.”
Gentry was immediately taken to Hendrick Medical Center and was released on Monday with a neck brace. He goes back for re-evaluation Thursday but said he plans on practicing as soon as next week.
The final big blow to the Wildcats came in the second half when junior linebacker Shawn Taylor went down with a strained medial collateral ligament. The injury will sideline Taylor-the Wildcats’ leading tackler-for four to six weeks, meaning the soonest he could return to the lineup is the Oct. 25 Homecoming game against Midwestern State.
“He’s one of the keys to our defense,” redshirt freshman safety Danieal Manning said. “We’re gonna miss his extra speed out there.”
Taylor’s backup is listed as redshirt freshman Craig Howard, but sophomore Matt Allen could also compete for the spot.
True freshman Nate Petross is listed as Gentry’s backup, but junior Adam Black could move over to the free safety position as well.
Senior left guard Buddy Dowden will most likely move over from the right guard position and redshirt freshman Cody Savage will take Dowden’s spot due to Stewart’s injury.
“Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game,” Gaines said. “Three in one game is unusual, but it’s the backups’ time to step up.”
Gaines said despite the injuries that follow a preseason season-ending achilles tendon tear to senior cornerback David Jones, he doesn’t think the team is cursed.
“We can’t dwell on the injuries,” Gaines said. “I don’t think there’s any kind of jynx on us.”
Gentry said his stubbornness will prompt him to make a speedy recovery.
“I have to wear this neck brace until Thursday,” he said. “But I’m kind of stubborn anyway. I want to take it off.”
With any luck, the Wildcats will soon be able to shake off the injury bug with such ease.