PROVO — For the second time in as many weeks, BYU has lost a player for the season due to an injury.
The school announced Monday that nose tackle Romney Fuga will undergo season-ending knee surgery after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament injury during last Saturday's 27-13 loss to Nevada.
The 6-foot-2, 307-pound junior is expected to return for fall camp next August.
Fuga's absence creates a big void on the Cougar defense.
"Romney's played very well in every game," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "He's consistently doing exactly what he's supposed to do — not only during practice but also during the game. He added a sense of composure and experience to our team. He's played, in my opinion, as good as any nose tackle since I've been here as I've been the head coach."
"He's a playmaker up front," said sophomore linebacker Austen Jorgensen. "It's a big loss."
Last week, it was announced that quarterback Riley Nelson would be sidelined for the rest of the season with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.
Fuga was injured when Nevada offensive lineman John Bender hit Fuga's leg from behind. No penalty was assessed on the play.
"It is legal to cut (block) somebody, but I'm not sure it's legal to cut somebody from behind," said BYU offensive lineman Jason Speredon. "That's what it looked like. It was a cut to the legs behind the guy. It just looked really brutal. But I don't that his intention was to injure him like that."
As of Monday morning, Mendenhall said he had not talked to Nevada coach Chris Ault about the situation.
However, Ault did address the issue Monday with reporters.
"It was a clip. There's no question about it," Ault told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "John didn't do it on purpose. It was a reaction to a screen pass, and it should have been called. That happens. I've gotten some e-mails today and understand that. There's nobody sicker than John Bender, but that is a reaction to a play that happened. He thought the guy had a chance to (make the tackle). He took an angle and clipped him. That's tough. John didn't do it maliciously. He didn't do it on purpose. It's a reaction to a play."
Defensive lineman Vic So'oto wore Fuga's No. 98 jersey in the second half of the game as a tribute to his fallen teammate.
Sophomore Jordan Richardson played in place of Fuga. "Jordan Richardson played well enough to help us play good defense in the second half," Mendenhall said. "But we'll certainly miss Romney — not only how he was playing, but also his presence."
Fuga's injury means that true freshman Graham Rowley is no longer redshirting. He will be trained as a backup defensive end, Mendenhall said.
Sophomore defensive end Eathyn Manumaleuna started 13 games at nose guard as a freshman in 2007, prior to his mission. Manumaleuna could move back to nose guard, Mendenhall said, depending on how things go at practice this week.
Other D-linemen in the mix include junior Matt Putnam and true freshman Thomas Bryson.
OTHER INJURIES: Outside linebacker Jameson Frazier broke his thumb in the second quarter against Nevada but continued to play. He already had a cast on that hand from a previous injury.
Mendenhall said he didn't know if free safety Steven Thomas, who missed last week's game due to a concussion, will be back this week against Utah State. Travis Uale and Zeke Mendenhall played free safety in Thomas' absence. Mendenhall caused a fumble against Nevada that set up BYU's only touchdown.
TOUGH SCHEDULE: After its win over BYU, Nevada (4-0) jumped into the polls this week at No. 25. It marks the first time the Wolf Pack have been ranked since joining the FBS in 1992.
Meanwhile, two other teams BYU has lost to this season, Air Force and Florida State, each have 3-1 records.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company