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November 5, 2007
When the Game Means Nothing
BOISE- The clock said there was still about 10:00 left to play, but really, the game was already over.
#21 Boise State led San Jose State 35-7 early in the 4th quarter Saturday, when the game was stopped in the middle of a Bronco drive.
"You could have heard a pin drop out there for 15 minutes," said BSU coach Chris Petersen.
The entire crowd of 30,416, as well as all the Bronco and Spartan players and coaches, watched in disbelief as paramedics attended to San Jose State sophomore Justin Willis. The good news is, it looks like the defensive tackle is going to be alright. But we didn't know that initially.
Willis was injured on a 1st-and-goal play from the 10-yard-line when he went to tackle BSU running back Ian Johnson. It looked like Willis' head went into the ground when he made the tackle, and he lay still on the ground for several minutes. He never lost consciousness, but he did have numbness in his left arm.
"It's a tough situation," said BSU quarterback Taylor Tharp. "In the back of your head you kinda go, 'well this is football, this is the risk we all take.' But you never want to see a guy have to get carted out in an ambulance. It's kind of a reality check."
Willis was taken immediately to Saint Alphonsus in Boise, where he had a CT scan performed. It revealed no fracture to the cervical spine. Also, an MRI was negative.
"That's the last thing anybody's wanting to happen," added Petersen. "And when it does, everybody can certainly feel for that. I think everybody in the stands felt for it too."
If there's anyone on the Bronco roster who knows what it's like to go through a serious injury, it's Ian Johnson. The junior has already missed two games this year with a bruised kidney, and last year, among other injuries, he had to spend a few days in a San Jose hospital after suffering a collapsed left lung in the Broncos' game against the Spartans.
"The first thing I thought was my first game back was the game that I got hurt last year," said Johnson. "And then I saw him down and I was just like, the first thing that came to my mind was if he's gotta be here longer than the team stays, that's the first person I'm gonna go see."
We haven't been able to confirm whether Johnson did visit Willis, who reportedly left to go back to California Sunday morning with a member of the San Jose State medical staff, but we do know that when Johnson was in a California hospital last year, a handful of Spartan players went to visit him.
"One play can change that man's life, the rest of his life, if it's that serious," said BSU safety Marty Tadman. "So it was a very deep concern and my heart just went out for him."
By the way, the Broncos ended up winning the game 42-7. But how much do you think that matters to Justin Willis?