The blood clot that forced Eastern Washington University’s Zach Johnson into the unfamiliar role of sideline spectator this fall officially put an end to his 2009 football season earlier this week.
Coach Beau Baldwin confirmed as much Wednesday, announcing the sophomore linebacker will miss the rest of the year because of the clot that developed in his left calf following offseason knee surgery.
Baldwin had hoped to have Johnson, who, along with his twin brother, Matt, was a starter on Eastern’s defense as a redshirt freshman last fall, available by midseason.
But because the blood-thinning medicine Johnson has been taking has not completely dissolved the clot, Baldwin and EWU’s athletic trainer decided to shut him down for the rest of the year for precautionary reasons.
“A blood clot is something you don’t want to mess around with,” said Baldwin, who is in the process of preparing his 17th-ranked Eagles (3-1, 2-0 Big Sky Conference) for Saturday’s game against Idaho State (0-4, 0-1) in Pocatello, Idaho.
In honor of his teammate and twin, Matt Johnson, a sophomore strong safety, will wear Zach’s No. 10 jersey instead of the No. 5 he has been wearing this fall.
“It seems really strange not having him out there,” said Matt, who intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in last Saturday’s 56-30 road win over Sacramento State. “We’ve each been hurt before for a couple of games here and there, but never a whole season.
“It was especially weird last weekend, because it was a road game and he wasn’t there. It was the first time I’ve played in a game that he wasn’t at, too.”
Zach ended up watching the www.bigskytv.org Web cast of the game with a friend in Spokane.
“Ever since I’ve been playing with Matt, even if one of us was hurt, we were there for each other, so it was tough to watch,” he said.
Still, the long-team prognosis appears promising. According to Johnson, the clot has been getting smaller and is expected to dissipate completely in another three months, which means he should be cleared for practice in the spring.
The first full week of classes at Eastern Washington University has not been kind to the Eagles’ football team.
In the past eight years, EWU is just 2-6 in games played on the Saturday following the first full week of classes – which will be the case Saturday, when the Eagles take on winless Idaho State. And in games played on the previous Saturday, following the traditional Wednesday start of classes, Eastern – which had a bye week during that particular period in 2002 – is 4-4.
That record includes last Saturday’s romp past Sacramento State, which came three days after classes started for the 2009-10 school year.
Nichols closes in
Eastern’s senior quarterback and four-year starter Matt Nichols has completed 773 of 1,264 passes (61 percent) for 9,668 yards and 70 touchdowns during his stay in Cheney.
Nichols needs 593 passing yards and 666 yards of total offense to surpass former Walter Payton Award winner Erik Meyer as the Eagles’ career leader in those categories.
In addition, Nichols is 14 career touchdown passes behind Meyer’s school record of 84.
All five games involving Big Sky schools last weekend were won by the visiting team. During the first three weeks of the season, Montana’s 17-10 victory over UC Davis was the only road win posted by a BSC team. … Five Big Sky quarterbacks – Northern Arizona’s Michael Herrick (440), Weber State’s Cameron Higgins (410), Portland State’s Drew Hubel (353), Montana’s Andrew Selle (349) and Sacramento State’s Jason Smith (320) – threw for more than 300 yards last Saturday. … With a win over Idaho State on Saturday, Eastern Washington would post it first 3-0 start in conference play since 2004. The Eagles have never started 4-0 in the conference. … EWU junior linebacker J.C. Sherritt leads the BSC in tackles with an average of 12.5 per game.