Bloomington – Indiana's first Big Ten win of the season last Saturday came at a significant price.
IU Coach Bill Lynch confirmed Tuesday that safety Austin Thomas and tight end Brian Zemaitis have likely been lost for the season due to injuries, while left tackle Rodger Saffold will miss this week's match-up with Central Michigan as well due to injury.
Thomas, who ranks fourth on the team with 41 tackles, went down with a knee injury after the second of his two interceptions of Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher Saturday. He's undergoing an MRI today, and Lynch said he's likely to miss the remainder of the season with an apparent ACL injury.
Saffold has been nursing a back injury for much of the season, but had been able to play in each of IU's first eight games. But the Hoosiers' junior left tackle had to be helped off the field Saturday and has been ruled out for the Central Michigan game. His injury has been classified as week-to-week.
"You feel bad for those two kids because they've battled through injuries and have played and were playing well," Lynch said. "Now they can't play. You feel bad for them."
Zemaitis, meanwhile, is expected to undergo season-ending surgery this week.
While those three players have been ruled out, a couple of others remain up in the air. Offensive linemen James Brewer and Mike Reiter – both of whom have been pressed into duty in recent weeks due to the other injuries along the offensive line – were rolled up on the same play and their availability is in doubt as well.
Indiana does expect to have Cody Faulkner and Andrew McDonald back this week after one-game absences, but it's still a muddied situation along the offensive line. The most concerning position could be left tackle, where Saffold and Brewer were listed as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on last week's two deep.
"What did Texas Tech do? Didn't they have a tryout there for their kicker?" joked Lynch. "We'll keep shuffling it around. We have to move some guys around a little bit today and then probably lock in Wednesday."
The most likely candidates are McDonald or Justin Pagan. McDonald began the year at tackle before moving inside and starting at guard against Illinois. Pagan, meanwhile, has played both tackle spots this fall, but started this past weekend at left guard.
At safety, Lynch said seniors Joe Kleinsmith and Brandon Mosley will help fill the void created by Thomas' injury. Sophomore Jerimy Finch also returned to practice Monday, but Lynch said it will be the pair of seniors who will handle the lion's share of the work at strong safety.
"They've had to play, and they've played really well," Lynch said.
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Thomas Likely Out for the Year
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