It seems that at this point of the season, Oklahoma and Baylor are the only two competing Big 12 teams without a season-ending injury (knock on wood).
Oklahoma State just lost MLB Ryan Simmons, TCU waved goodbye to almost their entire defense to various injuries, and now this: (debatably) the best defensive back in the Big 12 falls to a season-ending knee injury. West Virginia S Karl Joseph’s injury will impact this team’s destiny more than most people would think.
During a non-contact drill on Tuesday, Joseph fell to the ground clinching his knee. The doctors’ evaluations following practice showed that he needs season-ending surgery. If the loss at Oklahoma Saturday didn’t hurt enough for Mountaineer fans, this one ought to do the trick.
Joseph, who has started in 42 career games, has recorded 284 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 14 pass breakups and nine interceptions in his four years in Morgantown. This season alone, Joseph had five interceptions and 20 tackles through four games.
West Virginia fans always knew the talent level of Joseph, but it wasn’t until this year where he was seen as a potential All-American. In the first game of 2015, Joseph picked off Georgia Southern three times. Not only was that the most interceptions in a game for a Big 12 player since 1994, but also Joseph did it all in one quarter.
It’s pretty obvious that Joseph was this team’s best player and a great NFL prospect. But according to his coaches, his leadership and mentality are the most irreplacable qualities that this team will miss. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson shared his thoughts in a tweet from Wednesday.
In my 21 years of football – #8 has been the best leader and player that I've ever had the privilege of coaching.
— Tony Gibson (@TonyGibsonWVU) October 7, 2015
Head coach Dana Holgorsen had similar comments in a release Wednesday.
“I am devastated and heartbroken for Karl,” Holgorsen said. “He is a young man who has given everything he has to our football program and university over the past four years and who elected to return to WVU for his senior season to earn his degree and to be part of something special with this team. He exemplifies what it means to be a Mountaineer.”
He went on to say, “Karl is an All-American, a fierce competitor, a leader, and I know he will have a full recovery. I can’t wait to watch him on Sundays next fall.”
For a team who has seen Joseph start every single game from day 1 in a West Virginia uniform, this is the last person you want on the sidelines. But at the same time, Joseph has been very positive and supportive in his comments about the injury. “I will forever be a Mountaineer and will be cheering on our team every step of the way,” Joseph said in his statement.
The Mountaineers still have talented, athletic backups like Jarrod Harper and Jeremy Tyler who have sat behind Joseph for a few years and have probably learned a lot.
West Virginia has their next three games against No. 21 Oklahoma State, No. 3 Baylor, and No. 2 TCU: three teams that are heavy on the passing game.
This leaves the Mountaineers at a turning point. Will this injury force them to tank defensively and fight for wins against easy teams, or will they use this as a rally point and win for their beloved #8?
It is an emotional heartbreak to see such a great college career end on a low note, but like Holgorsen said, we will enjoy watching him on Sundays next year.