Stanford head coach David Shaw announced on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call that senior defensive end Ben Gardner will miss the remainder of the season with a pectoral injury.
Gardner was sidelined in the second half of the Cardinal's 20-12 win over Oregon State Saturday. Shaw said Gardner is shelved through the bowl season, effectively ending his college career.
The injury has been nagging Gardner since an Oct. 5 win against Washington, after which Huskies head coach Steve Sarkisian accused Stanford players of faking injury to slow down his team's no-huddle offense.
Gardner took to Twitter to defend his team.
Losing Gardner strikes a major blow to Stanford's outstanding pass rush, which ranks No. 3 nationally with 27 sacks. Gardner is responsible for 4.5 of those, second only to Trent Murphy's 9.5.
"He's outstanding, and that's unfortunate for anybody," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said of Gardner. "He's a stud. That guy will have a future ahead of him [in the NFL] for sure."
Stanford has a bye this upcoming week in preparation for its Top-10 showdown with Helfrich’s second-ranked team. The Cardinal could get an important addition to the newly-depleted defensive line with senior end Henry Anderson.
A knee injury sidelined Anderson in September, forcing Shaw to move tight end Luke Kaumatule to defensive end for a period.
USC Injury Outlook is Foggy for Oregon State
Injuries have hit an already-thin USC roster hard this season, but nowhere more than among its wide receivers and tight ends. The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that two tight ends—Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer—could return for the Trojans' trip to Oregon State Friday.
USC interim head coach Ed Orgeron only had confirmation on Grimble.
"The only guy [who] is going to be back for sure…[or] I have a good feeling is going to be back is Xavier Grimble," he said. "The rest of the guys are still questionable."
Among the rest who remain questionable is leading wide receiver Marqise Lee, who was injured Sept. 28 at Arizona State. He returned briefly Oct. 19 at Notre Dame before aggravating his sprained left knee.
The Trojans did get back one important offensive piece last week, sophomore running back Tre Madden. He carried 12 times for 60 yards in USC’s 19-3 win over Utah.
Arizona Quarterback B.J. Denker Settles In
Cal head coach Sonny Dykes said Arizona senior quarterback B.J. Denker is "improved more than anybody in the [Pac-12]," and the numbers through the last three weeks reinforce that.
Denker completed just 45-of-90 pass attempts for 445 yards and two touchdowns through Arizona's first four games. In the last three games, he’s 67-of-106 for 796 yards and six touchdowns.
He earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors in Week 9 after passing for 265 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another 192 yards—a record for an Arizona quarterback, as the team's official Twitter account noted.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez credited confidence and more familiarity with the scheme for Denker’s dramatic improvement.
"We’re doing the same things every week," Rodriguez said. "He’s understanding not only what we’re doing, but why we’re doing it and how teams are defending it."
The Importance of the Bye Week
One-third of the Pac-12 is idle in Week 10. The off-week is an opportune time to recover from injuries for the stretch run into the season's end.
Such is the case for Utah, which came crashing down from the high of its Oct. 12 win over Stanford with back-to-back losses at Arizona and at USC.
Sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson has battled a hand injury in that time.
"We never use that as an excuse," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Our motto is if you’re out there playing, you’ve got to be ready to perform."
Whittingham would not discuss specifics of Wilson's injury, citing his policy on injury reports. Nevertheless, he did acknowledge that the bye week will help in the healing process.
"The bye comes at a good time to hopefully get him back to where he was before the setback," Whittingham said.
Arizona State is coming off a bye week, with a road trip to Washington State ahead on Thursday.
“We were very much in need of some rest," Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said. "I didn’t put on the pads [on the team in practice] the entire [bye] week.”
For conference heavyweights Stanford and Oregon, the bye week means extra preparation for their highly anticipated, Nov. 7 matchup.
It's also a time for the coaching staffs to spend time with family.
Both Shaw and Helfrich said they are mandating coaches to leave the football facilities at dinnertime this week.
"We kicked everybody out [of the office] much earlier than usual," Helfrich said.
Shaw said the bye gives his assistants an opportunity to take their children trick-or-treating on Halloween night.
After that, though, it’s back to work. Shaw said Cardinal coaches will be on the recruiting trail Friday.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer for B/R. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.