Big blow for Big Red: Crick out for season

Jared Crick didn't look right on Saturday night during Nebraska's game against Ohio State.

Most folks, including fellow Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett and I, thought he was still a bit off after missing a Week 4 matchup against Wyoming with a head injury. Turns out Crick was dealing with another ailment, a torn pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the remainder of the season and end his college career.

There's no sugarcoating this one. It's a big loss for Big Red.

"I feel extremely bad for Jared," Huskers coach Bo Pelini said in a prepared statement. "He is a young man who has represented this program in a first-class manner throughout his career. He made an unselfish decision to come back to Nebraska for his senior year and earn his degree, which he did this summer. He has also been a leader on and off the field and a young man who has made a positive impact in our community. Jared has a bright future in front of him on the field at the professional level. I know he will bounce back from this, and become a stronger player and person."

You certainly feel for Crick, who passed up big money in the NFL draft to return for his senior season. The second-team Associated Press All-American entered the fall with loads of accolades, including the No. 1 spot in our preseason player rankings. After recording 9.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons, Crick had been pegged as one of the nation's top defensive linemen and a leader for Nebraska's defense.

Although Crick had yet to hit his stride this season -- he had 22 tackles, three for loss, a sack and a blocked kick -- his absence will be felt. Pelini said Tuesday morning that he planned to give Crick some time off during the bye week to rest up, but further tests showed the muscle tear.

A Nebraska defense that hasn't played to expectations thus far must lean on its other leaders -- LB Lavonte David and CB Alfonzo Dennard among them -- as well as a defensive line that has depth. Veteran tackle Baker Steinkuhler becomes a vital player for the Huskers in Crick's absence, and Nebraska needs its other tackles, like Terrence Moore, Thaddeus Randle and Chase Rome, to step up.

It benefits Nebraska to get this news during a bye week, as players can absorb the blow without having to play a game on Saturday. This is gut-check time for Nebraska's defense, which has struggled for six of its first eight quarters in the Big Ten.