EUGENE, Ore. — Suddenly, Utah’s injured missing tight end, Jake Murphy, was back.
The Utes? Not so much.
After being declared out for the season with a broken wrist six weeks ago, Murphy started Saturday and finished with two catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. He played with what coach Kyle Whittingham called “some kind of apparatus” on his wrist.
Immediately following Utah’s 44-21 loss to Oregon, Murphy said his wrist was “all right.” But by the time the post-game news conference began, he had upgraded its status.
“It felt good today,” Murphy said. “It was hard to come back, all that rehab and work I did on those weeks off, but I’m just glad to be back. Probably one of hardest parts of my football career was just being off those weeks.”
Although he was a key factor in the first half, scoring Utah’s lone first-half touchdown, he didn’t have any catches in the second half.
Murphy opened the game at tight end, having not played since the injury against UCLA on Oct. 3. He worked out with the team this week, but coach Kyle Whittingham would only say he hoped Murphy would be ready. The tight end was Utah’s leading yardage receiver.
Both catches were impressive. The first was a one-handed grab for nine yards in the second quarter. Moments later, Adam Schulz found him open for a 34-yard scoring play.
For Murphy, a junior, it was a relief to be back after the four-game layoff. He had five catches, averaging 18 yards — second-best on the team — prior to the injury.
The timing couldn’t have been better — or faster. Murphy was originally expected to be out for 2013, unless Utah played in a bowl game. But he returned on the same day that No. 1 quarterback Travis Wilson stayed home, due to a reported concussion.
Asked if it was a relief to return so early, and make significant plays, Murphy replied, “Definitely. I mean, compared to watching the away games ... but at the end of the day it doesn’t feel good enough when you have a loss. I’ve just got to think positively and keep my mind-set on how nice it is to be back with all those guys, my teammates.”
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