Just about everything that could go right has gone right for Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles this season. The 'Noles are sitting at a perfect 5-0, are in full control of their destiny in the race to the ACC title game, and are ranked among the top five teams in the nation. However, the Tribe suffered a major blow in the third quarter of the Wake Forest game when Matt Meinrod went down with a serious injury and was carted off the field.
After being examined by team physicians and undergoing an X-ray, it was determined that the senior guard suffered a fractured left fibula and dislocated ankle. It happened on a fluke play when he was a bystander during as a mad rush for a loose football in the trenches.
"When I fumbled the ball, it came out and Castillo dove for it and basically rolled up on the back of Meinrod's ankle," quarterback Drew Weatherford said. "It's unfortunate and leadership wise it's tough. We've got guys that are going to have to step up and will step up."
The worst news is because of the seriousness of the injury, Meinrod's college career could be over. He entered this season as a redshirt senior and has already played past the point where a medical redshirt is possible. The New Port Richey native will undergo surgery this week and initial indications are that his recovery period could take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks. That means there's an outside possibility that he could play in FSU's bowl game.
The strongest player on the team sat out most of last season while recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in the opener at Miami. He returned to full health after working hard to get through rehabilitation and was off to a great start though the first four and a half games of this season.
"Matt, he worked so hard coming off his ACL in the training room, watching film, being a leader all summer long and he's done everything he can to help this team win," center David Castillo said. "He is by far the best linemen we've had this year... He's out there dominating people but football is a rough game."
Castillo isn't exaggerating about the accomplishments of his friend and teammate. In each of the first four games, Meinrod was named as the line's top blocker by coach Mark McHale.
With Meinrod out for at least the next six games, the offense must find a way to fill a huge void on the offensive line. However, the team has been down this road several times the past few months, and so far have come out smelling like roses every time.
"Coach Bowden always says adversity is nothing but an opportunity," Castillo said. "We've had so many with losing guys to injury like (Antonio) Cromartie, Clifton Dickson with academics and Wyatt (Sexton) with his situation - we are constantly losing people and having to face adversity but we've done nothing but step it up and it has brought us closer together."
When Meinrod went down in the third quarter, redshirt freshman Cornelius Lewis took over. Even tough he has very little experience, Lewis is a possible candidate to fill in at right guard the rest of the way, and that would be just fine with his teammates.
"Cornelius Lewis is a great talent," Weatherford said. "Ask anybody on the line and he has probably the most potential of anybody we have."
If he gets the call for this weekend's contest at Virginia, Lewis says he will be up to the challenge.
"It will be a lot of film study," Lewis told Warchant.com. "I know the offense already but I have big shoes to fill so I have to step up and make plays for the team."
If not Lewis, John Frady, who has played both center and guard this season, could get the nod.
Meinrod and his family are frequent visitors to the Warchant.com message boards. Feel free to post any encouraging notes you might have for the injured Seminole on the boards.
Aslan Hajivandi contributed to this report
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