Injury to Ben Gardner Huge Blow to Stanford Cardinal Defense
The Stanford Cardinal are preparing themselves for a major showdown with the Oregon Ducks on November 7, but will be without one of their defensive leaders when they next take the field. Defensive end Ben Gardner left Saturday’s win against the Oregon State Beavers with what appeared to be an upper body injury similar to the one that he’s been fighting for several weeks. On Tuesday, head coach David Shaw told reporters that Gardner would be done for the season and will undergo surgery to repair his left pectoral muscle, ending the fifth-year seniors collegiate career on a very sour note.
Gardner was having a fantastic season for Stanford in 2013 for a defensive line that had been dealing with some depth issues for most of the year. His presence as a defensive captain and leader was huge through eight games, recording 19 tackles with a team high eight quarterback hits and recorded 7.5 tackles for loss. He was second on the team with 4.5 sacks behind Trent Murphy which was still good for No. 9 in the Pac 12 this season. Gardner was a major reason for Stanford’s defensive success this season which leads the conference with 27 sacks and is allowing just 19.4 points per game.
Shaw will have to scramble to fill Gardner’s very large shoes along the defensive line, though the Cardinal were already running thin with depth to begin with. Senior linebacker Blake Lueders has been filling in at defensive end rotationally during games and done pretty well, recording 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks so far this season. He’ll likely be given a bigger share of the snaps now with Gardner out.
One positive injury note for Stanford this week that could help ease the loss of Gardner was the news that defensive end Henry Anderson could make his return to the lineup against Oregon. Anderson has missed six games with a knee injury he suffered against the Army Black Knights and has been working his way back slowly. Shaw is not relying on him being back and 100 percent, however, and the team will evaluate where Anderson is this weekend when he practices to gauge what he’s able to do and how they can rotate him into the defense against the Ducks.
For Gardner, it’s a disappointing end to his collegiate career but not necessarily the end of his football career. He will have a long recovery ahead of him following his surgery but there were many NFL scouts who liked what Garnder offered as a prospect for the next level. The scrappy senior still plans on pursuing his NFL dream, though he will have to wait and see how his rehabilitation progresses.
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