Notre Dame suffered another season ending injury this weekend. Starting center Nick Martin suffered what Brian Kelly described as a significant knee injury in the 23-13 victory over BYU and will miss the regular season finale against Stanford and whatever bowl game the Irish make it to.
“Nick has a significant knee injury. He’ll be out for this game, and he will not be able to play in the bowl game,” Brian Kelly said on Sunday. ”We’re still getting a little bit more information. We had an MRI. I’ll probably have a little bit more specific details, but he’s out for the season,” he added.
Martin got knocked out of the game in the first quarter when he got rolled into by one of his teammates. Initially it looked like Martin would be OK after standing up on his own but he quickly was helped to the ground by his linemates after not being able to put any weight on his injured knee.
Kelly originally reported on Saturday night that Martin hyper extended his knee in the win, but further tests revealed a more severe injury that will put Martin on the shelf for the rest of the season.
Junior Matt Hegarty replaced Martin at center against BYU and more than held his own while the offensive line protected Tommy Rees all day and paved the way for a season high rushing total for the Irish ground game.
“I thought he did a pretty good job,” Kelly said on Sunday of Hegarty’s performance. ”Certainly going in there first time, you know, against a 320‑pound guy on his nose, I mean, he did not go against a four‑down where he was uncovered. He had somebody on his nose virtually the entire three quarters that he was in there, snapped the ball without any mistakes.”
Hegarty has had his own health problems during his career as well. Last year in bowl preparations the New Mexico native suffered a mini stroke that required surgery to repair two holes in his heart that had existed since birth but had gone undetected. Hegarty was cleared, however, for spring ball and battled with Martin for the starting center position through fall camp.
Mark Harrell will be the backup center most likely this week behind Hegarty but the Irish do have some flexibility at the position. Chris Watt or Conor Hanratty can slide over to play center in a pinch since the Irish have some more experienced depth at guard. Kelly said on Sunday that he will have a better idea of their exact plan at center at his Tuesday press conference.
With Martin lost for the final two games, Notre Dame will be without two of its opening day starters next against Stanford and in the bowl game after losing Christian Lombard for the season earlier this year as well. Freshman Steve Elmer and junior Conor Hanratty have filled in at guard very well so far for Notre Dame so hopefully Hegarty is able to fill in just as well for Martin.