A Call for Help

Injuries happen - a lot. The important thing is how a team, or coach deals with the adversity associated with those injuries.

Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs' football team had its fair share of those injuries in 2013; from the season-ending torn ACL suffered by receiver Malcolm Mitchell to the nagging ankle that plagued star running back Todd Gurley. Richt's squad, like many, had to play with the hand it was dealt. Tom Izzo and Michigan State's basketball team faced a similar predicament as a result of physical ailment.

After the fact Izzo gave his staff the task of finding a program that suffered what he referred to as six major injuries. Izzo told reporters his search included any sports team from cheerleading to band.

After a rigorous search for a team that battled a similar circumstance, Izzo's staff found Richt's Dawgs.

Izzo's nephew is a Graduate Assistant at Georgia, so it was slightly odd Izzo didn't think of the University immediately after his search commenced. Nonetheless, Izzo had an informative phone conversation with Georgia's head football coach last Wednesday.

"And I follow it and remember the chest bump in the end zone and the guy in the opening, the receiver goes down with a knee, I didn't know how many," Izzo told reporters. "I knew they missed their star running back and I know it's not quite the same, but just for the hell of it I couldn't find anybody else that just lost two guys, three guys for any length of time, I called him. He had a great, great point."

Richt explained to Izzo which injuries cost his team the most.

"In fact I told (Mark) Dantonio this, the receiver was bad it was an All-American. The running back was an all-American. The backup was a great player. They lost a quarterback for a little bit," Izzo said. "But of all the people he lost, I think there were six on the offense and most of them for the year. But the two I guess worst players, not all-American, were his two linemen and he said when he lost those linemen it really hurt his team. And I said why? And he said, well the line is this group of five that's a team within the team."

It wasn't long after that the two coaches, one of Big Ten basketball and one SEC football, began noticing similarities between their teams and their unique situations.

"He said you can lose a receiver, you can lose a linebacker, you can lose a defensive guy, but if you lose the ones that are really part of the team…," Izzo said. "The four defensive backs are that way and the five linemen. He started laughing and he was like ‘oh, kind of like a basketball team.' I said exactly."

The only item left to discuss was a solution for Izzo's team. While Richt was a suitable coach to ask for that sort of advice, he didn't know if his was necessarily the best. It didn't stop him from giving Izzo a rundown of his 2013 process of decision-making, though.

"I said what did you do. He said 'I put in a third stringer and I put in a walk-on.' How'd you feel it went? He said 'we went 8-5 so it didn't go that well,'" Izzo said. "That was a funny moment for me. It wasn't the same. Guys, there's nobody in America who's gone through this many injuries."

While only time will tell how Sparty's season plays out, 12 conference wins during regular season play isn't half bad for a team that's faced the misfortunes with injuries it has.

"From now on I'll be able to handle and have a better idea," Izzo said. "I don't know if you'll ever handle it."


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