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No news on Stanford injuries

10/30/2011

According to a Stanford spokesman, there will not be any injury updates today.

The Cardinal took plenty of bumps and bruises in Saturday night's thrilling 56-48 win over USC in triple overtime. But no loss was more significant than tight end Zach Ertz, who went down with what appeared to be a knee injury on the opening kickoff.

Ertz, one of Stanford's "Big Three" tight ends, was helped off the field, and by the end of the first quarter he was on crutches with a brace on his right leg.

He sat on the bench, looking despondent most of the first half with players and coaches parading by to offer encouragement.

After the game, head coach David Shaw said he did not have an update on Ertz's condition.

"We're not sure," Shaw said. "We're going to get him checked out. Gosh, we have so much three-tight end offense, to lose a guy on the first play of the game was tough. Ryan Hewitt had to step up and play a bigger role. Lee Ward had to step up and play a bigger role. As did Geoff Meinken. We're one of the few teams that has three fullbacks and all three came in and played some great plays."

With Ertz going down, the Cardinal not only lose a valued playmaker, blocker and favorite red zone/third-down option for quarterback Andrew Luck, but they also lose a big portion of their playbook. Or as Shaw described it, a "healthy chunk." Stanford's three-tight end formations have given opposing teams fits all season, and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said they had to adjust how they were going to attack USC in Ertz's absence.

Heading into Saturday night's game, Luck had looked to Ertz significantly more than any other tight end. Of the trio, Luck had targeted Ertz 31 times in the first seven games, while looking to Coby Fleener 21 times and Levine Toilolo 12 times.

"I think we have a lot of great guys on the field," Luck said. "When someone goes out, it's the philosophy that the next guy has got to step up. Obviously, Zach is a great player. It's hard to replace him in a game like this. We hope he's playing next week. But I don't think the playbook changes too much."

The playbook might not, but the options in the passing game do. The Cardinal were still able to run some of their jumbo packages with additional offensive linemen and fullbacks -- which is fine for the running game. But they lose the mid-range passing option off of those sets with Ertz out of the game.

"One of the things that we benefit from playing multiple linemen sets is we can always plug in a lineman at one of those tight end spots," Hamilton said. "Of course, we're limited in the passing game. But at the same time, it's our job to come out and control the line of scrimmage all the time."

Offensive tackle Jonathan Martin also missed some time after appearing to roll his ankle. He too was assisted off the field, but was able to return for Stanford's late-game heroics. He was in a boot after the game.

Wide receiver Chris Owusu also took a big a hit on Stanford's final offensive drive in regulation and he did not return to the game. It's the second big hit Owusu has taken in three weeks after a concussion knocked him out of the game against Washington State.

Shaw has been critical -- without being critical -- of Pac-12 officials for not calling personal-foul penalties on questionable hits. He's previously cited the helmet-to-helmet hit on Fleener that knocked him out of the Arizona game and the Owusu hit against Washington State as plays that should have drawn flags, but did not. Saturday night, however, USC safety T.J. McDonald was flagged for the hit on third-and-6 that kept Stanford's drive alive in the closing minutes of regulation. Six plays later, Stepfan Taylor scored on a 2-yard run that tied the game at 34-34 to force overtime.