After needing the night for medical reports to come in, Brian Kelly updated the status of a few key injuries on Sunday, detailing just how beat up his football team is with three regular season games to go and the Irish set to head to Pittsburgh on Saturday for (another) primetime kickoff.
The toll of playing Air Force and Navy on back-to-back weekends has shown itself, with Ben Councell suffering a season-ending knee injury. The Midshipmen also caught defensive lineman Kona Schwenke with a cut block that’ll keep him out at least for the week, with a high-ankle sprain dropping another key defensive lineman for the Pitt game. Sheldon Day also re-aggravated an ankle injury on a cut block behind the play, making him questionable for Pitt as well.
Ishaq Williams is still sitting out after a cut block sprained his ACL against Air Force. Kelly talked about the challenge of playing Air Force and Navy in consecutive weeks, acknowledging that low blocks were responsible for multiple injuries, but also understanding that they’re part of the game and scheme that the teams play.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s the style of offense that the academies play,” Kelly said. “It is what it is.”
If there was a bit of good news on Sunday its that an MRI taken on Louis Nix this afternoon didn’t show any further issues and that the All-American defensive tackle will be on the field against Pitt. The Irish are in desperate need of Nix back on the interior of the offensive line, with sophomore Jarron Jones sliding inside to help along with fifth-year senior Tyler Stockton.
Fifth-year offensive lineman Chris Watt is learning to play with a PCL tear in his knee, an injury that doesn’t require surgery but does effect the way the standout lineman moves and does his job. Elijah Shumate should be activated at safety after sitting out multiple games with a hamstring strain. He will likely come in handy after Austin Collinsworth battled a neck strain throughout the Navy game.
But the focus for the Irish defense is finding core competency along the defensive line. Having Stephon Tuitt and Nix back as anchors is nice, but Kelly’s maxim of “Next Man In” is hard to fill when there just might not be anyone left.
“We are running out of next men,” Kelly said. “We’re at that point where from a defensive standpoint, and particularly the defensive line, we’re left with very few options It becomes an issue now where we have to be very creative in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
“We’ll figure something out. We’ll get 11 guys out there. It’s just not going to be one of those things where we’re going to have the same group of guys out there all the time. As you know, we’re going to have to find a way to stop a big, physical offensive line at Pittsburgh, and that is the thing that concerns you the most.