FARGO-The glory of North Dakota State's upset over the University of Iowa took a shot of reality on Monday. The heart and soul of the Bison defense will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Nick DeLuca's injured shoulder turned out to be too severe after all.
Head coach Chris Klieman said his middle linebacker will have surgery this week to repair a torn labrum that will require a four-to-six month rehabilitation period. He said the decision was made after the Bison defeated Iowa 23-21 in a game that was still on the national media radar on Monday.
"The biggest thing was we thought he could maybe play through it," Klieman said. "We thought maybe if there was that opportunity because some guys have been able to do this."
He said DeLuca's shoulder was not stable even with a brace and the NDSU medical staff told Klieman the best course was surgery.
DeLuca, who played as a true freshman in 2013, will apply to the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver so he can return for another season. It appears the chances that DeLuca will turn his attention to the NFL draft this season are slim, at best.
Scott Woken, NDSU's associate director of athletics for internal operations, called it a fairly significant injury and said four to six months recovery time is "probably on the short side to be honest with you."
Woken said DeLuca most likely will be in a sling for six weeks and then work on range of motion for another six weeks.
"Unfortunately this isn't a thing where you get surgery, wait a couple of weeks and start full strengthening," Woken said. "This one takes time for it to help and you can't stress it."
DeLuca hurt his shoulder in the beginning moments of the second half in the season opener against Charleston Southern. He sat out the rest of that game, but played the entire game against Eastern Washington and Iowa.
You never would have known he was hurt. Against Eastern, he had 15 tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown and was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week. He led the Bison with eight tackles against the Hawkeyes in a defensive effort that helped shut down Iowa in the second half.
"There's no doubt he was playing in discomfort," Woken said.
To be eligible for the medical waiver, DeLuca cannot compete in more than 30 percent of the season or three games, whichever is greater. Klieman said he's confident documentation to the NCAA will show DeLuca deserves another season.
Asked about the chances of DeLuca going pro, Klieman said it would be something he'd have to sit down and talk with the player and his family.
"But with the severity of the injury and the longevity of that injury, I don't think he would be able to have the opportunity to play in some of those bowl games and that's where I know you can get noticed a lot," Klieman said. "He's an unbelievably tough physical kid that wanted to give it a shot. You work so hard for it every year but you work so hard for your senior year and to have it taken away like that is a tough pill to swallow."
His departure means junior Matt Plank will take over at linebacker. Klieman said no true freshman will have his redshirt pulled as a result of the DeLuca injury.
Meanwhile, the Bison retained their No. 1 ranking in the FCS coaches and the STATS.com media polls. Linebacker MJ Stumpf was named the Missouri Valley Defensive Player of the Week after returning an interception 21 yards for a touchdown and kicker Cam Pedersen was named the league's Special Teams Player of the WEek after kicking the game-winning 37-yard field goal with no time remaining.
Right tackle Landon Lechler was named the Valley's Offensive Lineman of the Week