When CSU offensive lineman Josh Day returned to practice Tuesday it was as if the last guy had showed up at a pick-up game and there was finally enough people to play.
“It was good to see him back,” said fellow lineman Clint Oldenburg. “We need him out there.”
Day was back on the practice field Wednesday, showing signs of a full recovery from an injured left ankle that kept him out of last week’s 24-21 loss to Air Force.
Getting Day back was a much-needed break for the Rams, who have seemed unable to catch one when it comes to injuries this year.
Football is football and players are going to go down, but when exactly does it become official that the Rams are cursed this season?
Looking back, the Rams have lost 73 man-games this season due to injury, most notably: running back Kyle Bell, six; safety Ben Stratton, three; receiver Dustin Osborn, three; and center Tim Walter, two.
Looking ahead, starting safety Mike Pagnotta and defensive end Jesse Nading are expected to miss this weekend’s Border War in Wyo. because of injuries they sustained last week.
“It’s been kind of a joke that by the end of the season we’re not going to have enough guys to field a defense,” said safety Jake Galusha. “It’s definitely frustrating.”
The offense doesn’t look much better. Through six games, Oldenburg has been the only offensive lineman that has started every game. The initial unit that started the season against Weber State has only played one game together.
“It’s definitely been a fight,” said Oldenburg. “Especially on the front line you need cohesion between the guy next to you. We have good, young players who have stepped in and helped the team though.”
Despite missing key players and having fewer substitutes to work with, the Rams have refused to use injuries as an excuse for any of their shortcomings this season.
“Sometimes after a game when you’re looking for excuses you say if [the injured guys] would have been out there it would’ve been different,” said Galusha. “But football’s not a game of excuses. We don’t have this many players on the team for no reason. You field this many guys because you might need them to play.”
Regarded as one of the tougher guys on the team by coaches and players alike, Day simply getting back on the field this week may be worth just as much mentally to his teammates as any play he’ll make on Saturday. He says he’s happy to be out there no matter who it’s with.
“You never know what’s going to happen with anybody out there,” said Day. “All you can do is the best you can with what you got.”
Football beat writer Brett Okamoto can be reached at email@example.com.