Junior center Toa Lobendahn tore both his ACL and MCL and is out for the season, head coach Clay Helton announced after practice on Thursday.
Lobendahn sustained the tear in the season opener against Alabama.
“It’s very sad news for us,” Helton said. “[Lobendahn’s] one of the loves of my life; he will be missed greatly.”
Doctors discovered the MCL tear earlier in the week, then proceeded to find the ACL tear following more observations, according to Helton.
Lobendahn appeared to suffer the injury in the first quarter of last week’s season-opener against No. 1 Alabama. On a fourth-and-7 play, Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson fell on Lobendahn’s knee following a sack, likely aggravating the injury. Loebendahn remained in the contest until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“Being the warrior that he is, he didn’t even complain about it,” Helton said. “He came off the field after the game and said [to the coaches], ‘My knee just doesn’t feel right.’”
Lobendahn has a history with knee injuries; this is the second consecutive season that a torn ACL has derailed Lobendahn’s season. He missed the final seven games of the season after injuring his knee in the Utah game.
Redshirt junior Nico Falah will replace Lobendahn. With several injuries at the center position last season, Falah stepped into the role in 2015 to close out the season.
“Falah has been in this position before and did a great job for us last year towards the latter half of the season,” Helton said. “I have all the confidence in the world in [Falah] … he’s a veteran — a redshirt junior — who has been out here every single day at practice working his tail off just for this opportunity.”
Helton said Lobendahn has already undergone surgery and that the junior will use a redshirt year.
Falah is an offensive tackle who can also play center. His lone career start came in the Pac-12 championship game last season against Stanford.
Helton said that redshirt freshman Cole Smith will serve as Falah’s backup and redshirt sophomore Chris Brown could play center in an emergency.