As Western makes its final preparations for Saturday’s game at Southwest
Missouri State, a vital cog in its defense will be missing when the teams take the field.
An MRI Wednesday revealed that junior linebacker Erik Dandy tore his right anterior cruciate ligament Tuesday in full-contact drills. He is out for the SMS game and most likely next week against Indiana State. Surgery will be performed, but it hasn’t been determined if that will be during or after the season.
“We’re weighing my options right now just trying to get strength back in my leg,” Dandy said by telephone Thursday afternoon. “It is devastating, but everything happened for a reason. I’m just trying to stay positive and give our defense as much help as I can.”
Dandy leads the Toppers with 90 tackles in seven games, 21 more than the next defender. Sunday he was named Gateway Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his team-high eight tackles and two sacks in Western’s 56-7 win over Florida International.
Dandy’s injury happened on a running play when he moved to his left down the line of scrimmage. He was engaged with a blocker when another player was blocked into the back of his knee. Dandy said he knew something was wrong when he came off the field because the knee already had swelling.
“It was an unfortunate thing,” head coach Jack Harbaugh said. “It was a freak thing that happened but it happened, and now you move on. And that’s the way we are approaching it.”
Junior Karl Maslowski, who has seen most of his time on special teams this season, will replace Dandy.
“It isn’t like he’s a freshman,” Harbaugh said. “This is his fourth year, and he’s been with our defense ever since this defense was installed. So he has a total understanding of what we’re doing.”
Maslowski is listed 30 pounds heavier than Dandy, but the game plan won’t be changed because of the personnel switch.
Maslowski has been filling in for Dandy when he gets tired, so the first series Saturday won’t be a total shock.
“I’m just trying to do him right by going as hard as he does,” Maslowski said. “Erik plays with so much intensity. I’ve never seen anyone love the game so much as he does.”
After being behind another All-American linebacker in Melvin Wisham, Maslowski now knows how to deal with being called on in a less-than-desirable role.
“I’ve kind of had bad luck,” said Maslowski, who has 15 tackles. “At first I didn’t know how to deal with it, but (inside linebackers) coach (Don) Martindale came in and helped me look at it from a different perspective.”
And Dandy isn’t worried that he won’t be adequately replaced.
“Karl, believe it or not, he’s one of the smartest people on our defense,” Dandy said. “He knows the defense better than I do. It’s his time to shine now.”
Maslowski got another vote of confidence from defensive coordinator David Elson after Thursday’s practice.
“He’ll step in and be fine,” Elson said. “Karl Maslowski could start anywhere in the Gateway right now.”
SMS has also gone through the injury bug this season. Both of the Bear tailbacks have missed time due to injury but are back playing now.
“I guarantee you no one at Southwest is over there pounding the grounds thinking, ‘Oh, poor Western,'” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got a feeling I know how they’re responding to all this.”
Other injured starters include seniors Jon Drummond and Arthur Wilson. Both have ankle injuries but are going to travel. A decision will be made closer to game time. Both have practiced and are making progress.
Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Springfield, Mo.
Reach Keith Farner at [email protected]