Badgers TE Clay Cundiff out indefinitely after injuring left leg

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK
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MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin tight end Clay Cundiff is unavailable indefinitely but hasn’t been ruled out for the season.

Cundiff was carted off the field during the Badgers’ 52-21 loss to No. 3 Ohio State.

In the injury report, Cundiff is listed as unavailable for the Badgers’ upcoming game with Illinois due to an injured left leg. But he’s not among the players out for the season.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst declined to offer a timetable for when Cundiff possibly could return.

Cundiff injured his leg as he went down after making a catch in the final minute of the first half at Ohio State. As he was carted off the field, just about every Wisconsin player left the sideline to greet him and offer support.

It’s the second straight season in which Cundiff has been carted off the field with a major injury. He dislocated an ankle, broke his fibula and tore the deltoid ligament in his right leg last year in a 27-7 victory over Iowa, knocking him out for the rest of the season.

Cundiff came back from that injury and caught two touchdown passes in a 17-14 loss to Washington State earlier this season. He has nine catches for 142 yards to go along with those two scores.

“It’s tough trying to find words to provide the right context to that situation because I watched him come back last year and just that journey he had to go on from the Iowa game all through winter, spring ball and finally getting back during the summer,” tight end Hayden Rucci said. “I still don’t even have the words. It’s really tough because he worked his (rear) off every day to get back. He knows the journey he’s got again. He knows what to do. We’re all just behind him right now.”

Rucci and Jack Eschenbach figure to get most of the work at tight end while Cundiff’s out.

“It was pretty heartbreaking. I know what an injury like that can do to someone mentally,” said Eschenbach, who dealt with shoulder and quadriceps injuries last year. “(For him) to kind of have to go through that all over again, it was pretty sad to see. But I know him very well and I know he’s going to persevere through and he’ll be back again eventually.”

Jeff Brohm critiques penalty-prone Purdue after Syracuse debacle

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue coach Jeff Brohm has seen enough.

He wants everyone in the Boilermakers program to stop jawing with referees and opposing players, starting with himself.

After apologizing to his players for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he drew in the final minute of a shocking loss at Syracuse, Brohm took his critique public during his weekly news conference.

“We cannot get any more 15-yard penalties, including myself, including sideline warnings and on the field,” he said. “We just have to be really, really by the book and keep our mouth shut and coach and play football.”

Tight end Payne Durham caught a touchdown pass to give the Boilermakers the lead with 51 seconds left. The fifth-year senior then drew a 15-yard penalty as a pushing and shouting match erupted after the extra-point attempt. Brohm said he asked the ref for an explanation and was called for another unsportsmanlike conduct that forced Purdue (1-2, 0-1 Big Ten) to kick off from its own 10-yard line.

Syracuse then benefited from good field position and two defensive penalties – a holding call near midfield and a pass interference call that set up the winning score.

“Mine at the end was stupid,” Durham said after 50 yards in penalties in the final minute led to the 32-29 loss. “It’s something I shouldn’t do. A guy was trying to get retaliation out of me, and it worked. I said one thing back to him and the ref threw a flag.”

Brohm acknowledged he didn’t agree with every call, certainly not some of what was called in those final seconds, and contacted the Big Ten office to express his concern. A personal foul call in the third quarter also helped Syracuse score its first touchdown and a first-half penalty erased a first-half interception.

“Against Penn State, we had 9 penalties for 92 yards. Against Syracuse, 13 for 138,” Brohm said. “Against good football teams, like Penn State and Syracuse on the road, you’re not going to win those games. Those are the main things that we’ve got to work on and that starts with me. I have to do a better job – a much better job.”

The first chance to see if the Boilermakers can prove Brohm can turn his talk into actions comes against Florida Atlantic (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA).

“Football is a tough, physical, emotional game, and we’ve got to make sure we control our emotions at all times, no matter what’s going on,” Brohm said. “If you look at our team last year we averaged 4.4 penalties a game for 43 yards a game. That’s probably why we won nine games, pure and simple. The chatter has to stop.”

Minnesota WR Chris Autman-Bell needs season-ending surgery on leg

Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota will enter Big Ten play without leading receiver Chris Autman-Bell, the sixth-year standout who has been scheduled for season-ending surgery on his right leg.

The unbeaten Gophers are used to this type of setback.

“It’s not if it’s going to happen to you. It’s when, and to who,” coach P.J. Fleck said after announcing the news.

Autman-Bell was hurt in Minnesota’s 49-7 win over Colorado on Saturday, when he landed awkwardly while trying to catch on off-target throw in the second quarter. He grabbed his leg in pain, needed help leaving the field and was sent to a hospital for further examination.

“Your heart breaks for him, because he’s worked incredibly hard,” Fleck said. “He responded the way you’d see somebody respond with really hard news, but it didn’t take him long to wipe those tears away. His mind was already on what he is going to do and accomplish and come back from.”

The procedure will take place on Wednesday. Fleck didn’t specify the diagnosis, other than to describe the injury as to Autman-Bell’s lower leg. The Gophers will apply to the NCAA for a medical redshirt that would allow him to return for a seventh season, should he wish to.

Last year, they lost star running back Mohamed Ibrahim in the first game for the rest of 2021 because of a torn Achilles tendon. Ibrahim’s attitude and determination served as an inspiration to the team since then, and his decision to come back for a sixth season influenced Autman-Bell, quarterback Tanner Morgan and center John Michael Schmitz to do the same.

Autman-Bell retweeted a poignant year-old post from Ibrahim shortly after his injury with the question “what if everything you are going through is preparing you for what you’ve asked for?”

Ibrahim is tied for second in the FBS with 464 rushing yards and tied for first with seven rushing touchdowns for the Gophers (3-0), who play at Michigan State (2-1) on Saturday.

Autman-Bell, a native of Kankakee, Illinois, was in Fleck’s first recruiting class at Minnesota after flipping his commitment and following him from Western Michigan. He redshirted that first year. The 2020 season didn’t count against anyone’s eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With 1,970 career receiving yards, Autman-Bell ranks ninth in program history. He caught a 39-yard touchdown pass against Colorado before he was hurt. The team’s leading returning receiver from 2021, when he had 36 catches for 506 yards and six touchdowns, Autman-Bell has again been Morgan’s favored target.

The younger players around him at the position have developed to the point now where the depth ought not to drop off as sharply, with Michael Brown-Stephens, Dylan Wright and Daniel Jackson next in line. Tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford Will Likely have his pass-catching role elevated, too.

“If this happens maybe three or four years ago, maybe it has a different vibe,” Fleck said. “But there are a lot of guys who can make a ton of plays.”