Aug 222005
 
Authors: Nick Piburn

Senior safety and defensive leader Ben Stratton will miss the 2005 season with a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his left knee. Stratton injured the knee Friday in the team's morning practice when he twisted it awkwardly and fell to the turf on a play in which there was no contact made.

Stratton received an MRI Friday night, which revealed the ACL tear.

"We're certainly disappointed that this happened, he's one of those guys who's worked extremely hard since he's come to school here, especially thinking this was his senior year," said head coach Sonny Lubick. "That's the difficult part of the game is that when you get guys that work so darn hard all summer, all winter do everything they can to get themselves ready and then they have an injury, it's hard to deal with."

A health and exercise science major, Stratton will graduate in May, but will return to the team for the 2006 season.

"(Ben) will redshirt this year, and will be back next year when he will take graduate courses," said associate athletic director Gary Ozello.

Stratton is widely considered the vocal and physical leader of the Rams defense, as well as the most intimidating hitter.

"Ben was always out there playing with a lot of energy, he's gonna be hard to replace," said senior safety Miles Kochevar. "We have to have a couple guys step up, be able to talk and fly around. It's going to be hard to replace him but we're going to have to do it."

Taking the majority of Stratton's reps at safety in practice on Monday was senior Travis Garcia, who understands the effect of Stratton's injury as much as anyone.

"It was a big hit to the team, everyone just has to step up and perform," Garcia said. "Me and Miles are going to have to get real vocal now that he's out."

Garcia has been nursing a sore hamstring, but with Stratton out, Garcia isn't going to let his injuries bring the team even more.

"I'm feeling pretty good, which is good now with Ben out," said Garcia. "You can't let minor injuries hold you back."

Senior linebacker Courtney Jones, one of the defensive leaders, has complete confidence that Garcia will step up to the responsibility.

"That's still a senior right there, we have all the confidence in the world in Travis Garcia," said Jones. "He's been playing for us for the last five years, so we know he's gonna go out there and work hard. We look forward to seeing him out there with us."

Although his teammates have confidence in Stratton's replacement the numbers say everything to prove how valuable Stratton has been to the Rams defense.

In his first three years as a Ram, Stratton has played in 30 games, starting all 24 games he's played in since his sophomore season. He has a total of 189 tackles over the three seasons, 125 of which are unassisted, including four tackles for a loss and one sack. Stratton also has five interceptions in his career, returning one 35 yards for a touchdown against San Diego State in 2003.

While Stratton also finished third on the team in tackles with 79 in 2003 and second in 2004 with 88, he brings a type of leadership that will be tough to replace.

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