After the perfect storm of injuries that contributed to the losses against BYU and Ole Miss, the Texas Longhorns had mostly avoided significant losses until the West Virginia game, when running back Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley left the game.
On Sunday evening, the school revealed that both players will undergo season-ending surgery.
Head coach Mack Brown said that he believed Whaley, the former running back who scored touchdowns against Oklahoma and Kansas, was shooting up draft boards based on his strong play. He was rolled up on early in the game and left in tears, clearly distraught. His knee injury was undisclosed, but will end his Texas career.
Gray had seized control of the starting running back job early in the season, leading the team with 780 rushing yards on nearly five yards per carry. The injury to his Achilles came on a six-yard reception just after his longest run of the day, a 27-yard effort, a significant setback because unlike the tears of knee ligaments, from which players can often return.
For NFL players, a study from 1997 to 2002 determined that 31% of players injured never returned to play another down. The players who were able to return suffered significant decreases in their games played and overall performance, while the typical recovery time was 11 month for players who did return -- even in a best-case scenario, it's unlikely that Gray will be ready for the start of the 2014 season.
In these situations, coaches will simply point to the need for depth, but both Whaley and Gray were leaders of the defensive and offensive units, respectively, so their losses will be felt more than just on the field. And the on-field losses will be significant as well, though Desmond Jackson played well against West Virginia and Joe Bergeron has certainly proven himself capable in the past.
The Longhorns are still alive in the battle for the Big 12 title, but winning it just got more difficult with the loss of Whaley and Gray.