Any time you lose a player as talented as Montana St. quarterback DeNarius McGhee, it’s a big deal. Especially when you’re the third-ranked team in the FCS.
The Bobcats are in a sudden state of tumult after their starting QB injured his shoulder last game and doctors sidelined him until mid October. The team announced the extent of the injury today.
McGhee has been named to essentially every preseason honor that’s available, including Big Sky preseason MVP and the preseason Walter Payton Award watch list, marking him as one of the top players in the nation. The three-time Payton award finalist entered his final season with 9,116 career passing yards and 71 passing touchdowns.
The Montana State football team held onto its third-place spot in both FCS polls after a 31-30 loss at SMU.
Two-time defending national champion North Dakota State is ranked first in both the coaches and Sports Network polls, followed by Eastern Washington.
Montana is ranked 11th in the media poll and 15th in the coaches’ poll. The Grizzlies had a bye this past weekend.
Montana is at North Dakota on Saturday while Montana State hosts Colorado Mesa.
MSU head coach Rob Ash addressed the issue at a press conference this afternoon. Here is a transcript of Ash’s comments.
Opening Statement: “The reason we’re here today is that DeNarius McGhee has been diagnosed with a shoulder separation, his right shoulder, so he is going to be unable to play in the game this week and he will be out for an undetermined amount of time. We expect him to back at some point in the middle of the season, and Jake Bleskin will be the starting quarterback this Saturday.”
What does DeNarius McGhee mean to this team?
“DeNarius McGhee has been the leader of this team for 40 games in a row, ever since his first game as a redshirt freshman. We have other great leaders on the team, as well, but he’s been sort of the face and personality of this program. It’s going to be very strange to be coaching without him and for his teammates to be playing out there without him, but we have a very resilient and positive group of guys and I know that they’ll go out and do a great job.”
How good do you feel about Jake Bleskin?
“I feel great about Jake Bleskin. He’s been here for two full years plus this preseason, he knows the offense every bit as well as DeNarius does, he’s got a great arm, he’s confident, he’s athletic. I think it’s going to be fun to watch Jake Bleskin play.”
Any chance we see two quarterbacks on Saturday?
“No. Jake’s the quarterback.”
Walk us through what happened Saturday night.
“We knew as soon as the play ended that DeNarius had an injury, but we didn’t want to jump to any conclusions or take any guesses in that situation, so we iced him up and brought him home and waited until Sunday to see how he was feeling. Then we went to the doctor’s office this morning to get the official diagnosis.”
What about Rory Perez?
“Perez is likely to play. He’s feeling 100 percent good today, his count is going, and he should be able to be back.”
What about Craig Ashworth?
“Ashworth will likely not be ready.”
Is there any assurance since you’re playing a Division II team?
“No, it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We prepare for everybody the same way. It’s the same game plan. Jake will run the same plays this week he’d run against anyone else.”
Realistically when do you think DeNarius will be back?
“We’re hoping sometime in three, four, five, six, seven weeks. It’s a very uncertain moving target right now.”
How are his teammates taking it?
“We haven’t had the chance to tell them face to face, so they’re hearing it the same time as everyone else. But they’ll be fine. We teach our guys to be resilient and to be able to respond to any situation that occurs. I think our team will go out and play great football when DeNarius is gone and even better football when he gets back.”
Does the playbook change?
“I don’t think it will change much at all. We’ve run the same plays with both those guys all through spring, all through August. We mimic the plays for the ones and twos. Jake has run with the ones in the first game of the season and I think it will be the same playbook.”
How frustrating is it for that to happen on the last play of the game?
“We can’t worry about frustrations right now. There’s a lot of ifs, ands and buts in this game all the time. It’s tough to deal with in that respect, but we have to move on and we’re going to.”
What is DeNarius’ mindset?
“DeNarius loves to play football, and he doesn’t want to miss any games so obviously he’s down about that, but he knows it’s the right thing, it’s the only choice we have right now so he’ll be like everybody else. He’ll handle it well, help Jake prepare, he’ll be there on the sidelines with us in the games he can’t play in. DeNarius McGhee will help us win even in the games he doesn’t play in.”
Have you talked to Jake yet?
“I have not personally talked to Jake. I know we have been in touch with him. I know Bill Lamberty has talked to Jake and Jake will be available at the press conference tomorrow so that you all get a chance to talk with him.”
Do you feel snake-bit by injuries yet?
“It happens. I’ve been coaching for a long time and injuries are one of those things you never know about. They come and go, sometimes they hit one position all at once, sometimes they hit your best player and sometimes they don’t. It’s one of the unknown factors in the game, and the only recourse you have is to line up with the next guy and go play on and play. I have a line I’ve used for 25 years, which is that when a good player leaves with an injury and the next guy comes in and plays that guy usually surprises everybody but himself, because he’s going to be ready to play when he gets out there.”
Have you ever had a year this hard with injuries?
“I’ve had years that were tough on injuries with good players. One of the years I was here at Montana State we lost our first two quarterbacks and had to play a converted receiver, going back to his high school days, Mark Desin came in and played quarterback in the Cat-Griz game and the NAU game. That wasn’t a great situation. Mark played well, did a great job, we won the NAU game and he made the key pass. That happens in football.”
Does it make it tougher that a lot of those guys are seniors and you lose veteran leadership?
“Again, we can’t get mired in that type of thinking. We have to line up with the guys we have and move on, and the guys that are playing will do just fine.”
Is there any indication how severe this shoulder separation is?
“I’m not sure I’m supposed to say, but when you look at the amount of time he’s going to be out you can get an idea.”
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