CHAMPAIGN, ILL. – And just like that, Shannon Brooks’ 2018 season is over after one game.
Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said after Saturday’s 55-31 loss at Illinois that Brooks, a senior running back, will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury suffered in last week’s victory over Indiana.
In that game, Brooks rushed 22 times for 154 yards and a touchdown before injuring his right knee while making a cut early in the fourth quarter. That was his 2018 debut after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a workout shortly before spring practice.
Fleck had planned to play Brooks for four games – and four games only – in order to preserve a final year of eligibility for 2019.
With Brooks out, redshirt freshman Mohamed Ibrahim, the team’s leading rusher, returned to the lineup after missing last week’s game because of a head injury. Ibrahim rushed 18 times for 98 yards and touchdowns of 4 and 1 yards against Illinois. He was injured early in the third quarter and left the game but later returned. True freshman Bryce Williams also played, finishing with five carries for 29 yards.
“We’re like a lot of teams at this point,’’ Fleck said. “We’re banged-up and don’t have a lot of depth.’’
Gophers redshirt freshman long snapper Casey O’Brien was on the travel roster and served as a captain for Saturday’s game. O’Brien, a Cretin-Derham Hall graduate, has battled a rare form of bone cancer and said in a team meeting this week that he received a clean scan.
“Casey’s been around the program for a while and has continued to defy the odds with cancer,’’ Fleck said. “He’s such a motivational, inspirational person in our program, and he’s never traveled before. To bring him on a trip and give him that experience. … This is about creating moments and memories.
“He deserves it, his teammates love him,’’ Fleck added. “It was a very special moment for our football team.’’
Williamson wows ’em
Owatonna senior Jason Williamson, who verbally committed to the Gophers in December, is piling up some impressive stats. On Friday night, Williamson rushed for a state single-game record 477 yards and scored six touchdowns as the defending Class 5A state champion Huskies defeated Northfield 49-14 in the Section 1 championship game.
That performance one-upped Williamson’s effort from the previous game, when he rushed for 441 yards and scored eight touchdowns in a 63-28 rout of Rochester Mayo. In the past two games, Williamson has 918 rushing yards and 14 TDs.
The 6-1, 205-pound Williamson, a three-star recruit, projects as an athlete for the Gophers. His next game is noon Saturday, when Owatonna faces Chaska in the state quarterfinals at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
• Gophers senior left tackle Donnell Greene did not accompany the team because of an undisclosed injury. Sophomore Sam Schlueter started in Greene’s place.
• Defensive tackle O.J. Smith missed his fourth consecutive game and defensive back Antonio Shenault missed his second in a row. Both have head injuries.
• Right guard Blaise Andries was shaken up late in the second quarter but returned to the game.
• Wildcat quarterback Seth Green left the game in the third quarter because of a right leg injury but later returned. He rushed nine times for 46 yards.