Texas Tech’s loss to No. 24 Texas A&M on Saturday night might have been a double whammy.
Not only do the Red Raiders have to recover from their first loss, but a big part of their offensive attack could be in jeopardy after durable running back Eric Stephens went down with a left knee injury with Tech driving late in the third quarter.
There was no immediate report on the extent of the injury, but Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said, “It doesn’t look good.”
“Obviously, he’s been very productive,” Tech quarterback Seth Doege said. “He’s been maybe the best offensive player on this team. He’s a great guy, great leader, so it’s going to hurt.”
The Red Raiders would sorely miss Stephens if he’s gone for any length of time. The 5-foot-8, 195-pound junior from Mansfield Timberview came into the week as the nation’s 13th-leading rusher, averaging 22 carries and 117 yards a game.
He topped 20 carries and 100 rushing yards in four of the first five games, reaching 102 yards on 22 attempts in the 45-40 loss to the Aggies. The Red Raiders don’t have anyone else with more than 107 rushing yards this season.
“It becomes difficult,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “I don’t’ want to talk about it tonight, because Eric just got hurt. I’m down about it, because the kid means a lot to me and he’s done a lot for our program and he’s a great kid. But tomorrow what we’ll do is somebody else will step up.”
Stephens got hurt on first-and-goal from the 5, trying to work back toward Doege and catch a pass that fell incomplete. Aggies outside linebacker Damontre Moore hit Stephens in the back of the left leg, causing the Red Raiders running back to twist backward with his leg pinned.
Both players were down for several minutes before Moore got up and left the field under his own power.
The Tech medical staff immobilized Stephens’ injured leg as he lay on the field. Then they loaded him onto a motorized cart, and Stephens sat up and flashed Tech’s guns-up hand sign as he was carried from the stadium.
Senior Aaron Crawford and true freshman DeAndre Washington took Stephens’ place the rest of the game, and Crawford wound up with 22 yards on seven carries. The Red Raiders also have used true freshmen Ronnie Daniels and Kenny Williams this season. “We’ll have to evaluate that tomorrow,” Tuberville said. “It’s not good, but I thought Aaron Crawford did a good job coming in. He’ll get his opportunities, (as will) DeAndre Washington, Kenny Williams. We’ve just got to go on with what we have. We do have some depth. We just don’t have a lot of experience.”
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