Last weekend couldn’t exactly be called a banner weekend for University of Louisville athletics. Not because of the losses on the field and on the court. This is greater than those one time incidents. We’re talking about twin wrist injuries that could affect the future of the ranked basketball team and the formerly ranked football squad.
Friday night at the Battle 4 Atlantis basketball tournament in the Bahamas, junior center Gorgui Dieng broke the scaphoid bone in his left wrist in the Cardinal win over Missouri. During the game, it was obvious that his wrist was hurting, but he tried to play through.
While on the bench during the Duke game the next evening Zach Price started and Stephen Van Treese saw significantly more playing time while the television cameras kept cutting back to Dieng on the bench showing his wrist heavily taped. The Cards lost that game even though the reserves played as well as they could. While it showed that Louisville could be tough without Dieng’s presence in the middle, it also showed that they would rather not have to do it.
Although the team acknowledged an injury, they didn’t mention a break until they got back to Louisville. Not surprising. Consider it the difference between island medicine there and having the world’s finest hand surgeons here. Tuesday a screw was inserted by Dr. Luis Scheker at the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center. That puts the recovery time at 4 to 6 weeks. Coach Rick Pitino thinks that with a little luck, Dieng will be back for the beginning of Big East Conference play.
Then last Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, sophomore phenom Teddy Bridgewater suffered a wrist injury of his own. At the end of the first half, he was slammed to the ground by an illegal horse collar tackle at the hands of Connecticut’s Sio Moore. The play cost UConn 15 yards and a free untimed down at the end of the half. For Louisville, the price was so much higher.
A broken bone in his non-throwing wrist meant that Bridgewater didn’t come back into the game until 10 minutes after the third quarter started and you could see him favoring it heavily. The crowd tried to pump him up with their loudest cheer of the game, screaming “Teddy, Teddy.” Riding the wave of energy, he got the team back into the game and forced it into three overtimes, the pain must have been tremendous due to an added ankle injury during one of the overtimes.
After that 23-20 triple overtime loss, the Cards have a short week to figure out what to do against Rutgers, another Big East team that has been nationally ranked at one time. The two meet on Thursday.
The bowl implications are immense because a Cardinal win, coupled with complicated tie breakers could give Louisville the Big East BCS bid to the Orange Bowl on New Years night. Going there would also mean a $17 million dollar payday for the school. Coach Charlie Strong and company can’t worry about that, but you can bet the athletic department is keeping track.
With Bridgewater not being able to go under center due to the injury, he’ll be in the pistol or shotgun formation all game long negating his vaunted play action passing. For any plays under center, Will Stein will have to come in. Playing quarterback as a tandem position hasn’t worked out well for most teams, but this is the scenario the Cards are looking at. And with Louisville’s offense needing to rediscover its running game, handing off the ball could be problematic as well.
Moving forward, both Louisville teams know the balance of their respective seasons is all in the wrist.
Photos: Louisville.com/Tim Girton