FARGO – One of the most talented quarterbacks in the history of North Dakota State football had his season cut short this week. Head coach Chris Klieman said senior Carson Wentz will miss six to eight weeks after breaking a bone in his throwing wrist.
The injury happened in the first half of the 24-21 loss to the University of South Dakota on Saturday when he landed on it wrong, but the initial thought by the Bison training staff was a sprain. His wrist was taped and Wentz played the entire second half.
A subsequent X-ray and MRI on Monday and Tuesday revealed something worse.
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“My heart goes out to him. Obviously, he’s a big part of our success,” Klieman said. “He’s meant so much to our institution, so much to the community and, shoot, so much to me personally.”
Wentz will undergo surgery Wednesday, but is expected to rejoin the team on Thursday in a mentoring role and will travel with the Bison when they play at Indiana State on Saturday. A possible NFL draft pick who has had scouts checking on him all season, the injury is not expected to impede his professional football prospects, Klieman said.
At six to eight weeks, it’s possible Wentz could return if the Bison reach the FCS playoffs, although Klieman said any of that kind of speculation would have to wait until after surgery.
Wentz, who played every down against the Coyotes, put up impressive numbers through six games, completing 114 of 179 passes for 1,474 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions.
His absence means redshirt freshman Easton Stick will get his first start. Sophomore Cole Davis moves to the No. 2 spot and true freshman James Hendricks from Bemidji, Minn., will travel to Indiana State as the No. 3 quarterback.
Stick rushed three times for 24 yards against Weber State and also appeared against the University of North Dakota. He has not thrown a pass this season. He traveled with the Bison all season as a redshirt in 2014.
“It’s Easton’s opportunity,” Klieman said. “I’m excited for Easton. He’s prepared the last six weeks like he’s the guy, so I know from a preparation standpoint he’ll be ready to go. I know athletically we’re excited to see what Easton can do.”
Stick was 7 of 9 passing for 135 yards and one touchdown and scored another on a 31-yard run in NDSU’s annual Spring Game last April. The 6-2, 215-pound Stick was a first team all-state selection at Omaha (Neb.) Creighton Prep. He declined a few FBS offers, including Rutgers of the Big Ten and a few Mid-American Conference schools, to come to FCS NDSU.
“I told him when I visited with him today, when we recruited you, we didn’t recruit you to come here to be a practice player,” Klieman said. “I know it’s unfortunate how you’ve become the starter this week but this is a chance for you to show what you can do and leave your legacy.”
Klieman said the offense won’t change a lot with Stick instead of Wentz, saying Stick does a lot of the same things that Wentz does. The experience factor, however, will differ.
“I told him you just need to be Easton Stick,” Klieman said. “Everyone else will raise their level of play.”