The old cliche is that any team can beat any other team on any given weekend. Maybe that’s true or maybe it’s not, but with injuries, any play can be the one that changes a season.
It doesn’t even have to come in a game. Practice injuries or even an accident off the field can alter the course of a season despite years of recruiting, planning and work. We never know when or how they’ll come, but they’ll always come. Some of them happened this weekend for teams around the league, so let’s take a look:
Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB, Nebraska
Sometimes the injuries that look the worst can end up not being much. The reverse is true as well, but it’s not nearly as dramatic. Tommy Armstrong took a hit as he headed out of bounds. He landed awkwardly, with much of his weight coming down on the side of his head. He immediately went limp and remained motionless as the medical staff went into action. My initial instinct was that he’d broken his neck, but luckily for everyone, my reaction was overreaction.
As bad as it looked, Armstrong was back on the sidelines before the game was even over. Armstrong is going through concussion protocol but does not appear to have any neck injury serious enough for the staff to take him off the starting slot for Saturday’s game against Minnesota. He is considered day to day. We’ll have to watch to make sure that Armstrong makes it through practice without any negative signs, but it’s a testament to how well it was handled that he’s back this quickly.
Tyler O’Connor, QB, Michigan State
With Brian Lewerke out for the season with a broken leg, Tyler O’Connor returned and ended up sidelined yet again. On a quarterback sneak, O’Connor took a big hit and was pulled to be checked for a suspected concussion. While he didn’t return to the game, MLive is reporting that Mark Dantonio does not believe O’Connor has a concussion. I’ll try not to knock Dantonio for saying O’Connor “just got his bell rung,” because he has bigger problems to deal with right now, but that’s a phrase I’d like to see out of football.
If O’Connor is not in the Big Ten’s concussion protocol (or even if he is), his status for this week is open. Damion Terry is the other option as it appears Dantonio has decided to leave the redshirt on Messiah deWeaver as the season of disappointment rolls to its finish in East Lansing.
Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland
Publicly, the Terps aren’t saying what happened to Ty Johnson, just that they think he’ll be ready for practice and most likely their next game. Johnson didn’t last long into their blowout loss against Michigan, but previously his split with Lorenzo Harrison had worked well for the offense.
The team will need all its weapons if it hopes to compete with two ranked opponents before what might be a must-win against Rutgers to close out the regular season. For all three games, the Terps will need Johnson because Harrison was over-exposed against the tough, hard-hitting Michigan defense and the backups added nothing. Watch to see when Johnson returns and how much he practices as the Terps prep for Ohio State.
DeAndre Thompkins, WR, Penn State
Thompkins was a question mark heading into the Iowa game. He suited up and played, but it didn’t really answer many questions. Thompkins only had one catch and the Nittany Lions were clearly focused on the run as they ran over the Hawkeyes. Thompkins is much more likely to be needed as a deep threat in this week’s game against Indiana, which could be quite the offensive show. The indications from what we saw were positive, but Thompkins bears watching as Penn State continues its resurgence and fights to stay in position for a trip to the Big Ten championship game.