John Clay

For college and pro QBs, this has been the season of living dangerously

Snake-handlers, gator wrestlers, trapeze artists, cliff divers — those adventure-seekers have nothing on football quarterbacks when it comes to risky business.

Consider the last two Saturday nights at UK’s Kroger Field.

Saturday, Sept.7: Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson was running the ball to right side when he was taken down by a horse-collar tackle as his foot caught in the turf beneath him. He exited the field on a cart, his left leg in a brace. Diagnosis: Torn patellar tendon. Prognosis: Out for the season.

Saturday, Sept. 14: Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks was running the ball to the left side when he had his body doubled back with his leg caught beneath him. Franks exited the field on a cart, his right leg in a cast. Diagnosis: Broken ankle. Prognosis: Out for the season.

A day later, two of the NFL’s most famous quarterbacks, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and New Orleans’ Drew Brees, were shelved by injuries. Roethlisberger is out for the season. Brees is out for at least six weeks.

Seems misery loves company. Before the season, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck shocked the world by announcing his retirement because of the “injury cycle.” Now, three weeks into the college season and two weeks into the professional campaign, the woes are widespread.

Let’s review some of the more prominent examples:

South Carolina: Senior quarterback Jake Bentley broke his foot sometime during the Gamecocks’ opener Aug. 31. He’s out for the year. Highly rated true freshman Ryan Hilinski now leads the Carolina offense.

Louisville: Jawon Pass looked like a much improved player in the first two games, but U of L’s starting quarterback missed Saturday’s win over Western Kentucky because of a chronic foot issue. His status is uncertain for Saturday’s visit to Florida State.

Western Kentucky: Meanwhile, the Hilltoppers are without starting quarterback Steven Duncan, who will be out several weeks with a foot injury, the team announced Monday.

Indiana: Starter Michael Penix sat out the Hoosier’s 51-10 loss to No. 6 Ohio State last Saturday because of an undisclosed injury. IU Coach Tom Allen has said he doesn’t believe Penix will be out long-term, but he hasn’t put a timetable on his return.

USC: Returning starter JT Daniels tore his ACL in the Trojans’ opening week win over Fresno State. He’s gone for the year, replaced by freshman Kedon Slovis, who so far has led the team to a win over Stanford and a loss at BYU.

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders announced Monday that starting quarterback Alan Bowman is out for an extended period because of a shoulder injury.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Ex-Eagles quarterback Nick Foles suffered a broken collarbone in the Jags’ opening-game loss to Kansas City. Rookie and former Mike Leach protégé Gardner Minshew of Washington State is now the starter.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The team announced Monday that Roethlisberger will miss the rest of the season after elbow surgery. Mason Rudolph, an ex-Oklahoma State quarterback, is now running the show in Pittsburgh.

New Orleans Saints: Brees tore a ligament in his throwing thumb when his hand slammed into the Rams’ Aaron Donald last Sunday. Enter former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is in the second year of his comeback from a horrific knee injury suffered while with the Minnesota Vikings.

New York Jets: No sooner than second-year starter Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mono, new starter Trevor Siemian suffered a gruesome ankle injury in Monday night’s loss to Cleveland. He was replaced another ex-Washington State quarterback, Luke Falk.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are not sure who will be at quarterback when Kentucky visits Starkville on Saturday. Opening day starter Tommy Stevens, a grad transfer from Penn State, suffered an upper body injury in the team’s second game. He started but was ineffective last Saturday against Kansas Sate, causing MSU Coach Joe Moorhead to turn to Garrett Shrader.

The true freshman turned into a human helicopter when he went airborne trying to get a first down in the first quarter, only to be spun around in mid-air by two K-State defenders. Despite landing with a thud, Shrader is (a) OK and (b) a social media star.

These days, he’s the exception, not the rule.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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