John Klein: Tulsa win overshadowed by unforgettable, tragic injury
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, September 09, 2012
9/09/12 at 4:25 AM
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‘A difficult day’
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Original Print Headline: Tulsa win overshadowed by scary injury
TULANE COACH Curtis Johnson didn't see the collision that seriously injured Devon Walker.
"I was taking off my headset and heading to the locker room for halftime," said Johnson.
But when Johnson arrived at Walker he noticed Tulsa and Tulane team doctors "operating on him."
"I just told him, 'Devon, stay with us,'" said Johnson.
Walker was seriously injured on the final play of the first half of the Tulane at Tulsa football game on Saturday at Chapman Stadium.
It was a terrifying scene for the 17,880 fans and cast a huge shadow over the game, won by Tulsa 45-10.
The game was not memorable. What happened on the last play of the first half is unforgettable.
You may not remember the score of this game in a few years. But, if you were there, you'll never forget those horrifying moments as Walker lay motionless on the field and doctors worked feverishly on him.
You probably won't remember how well Cody Green played but you won't forget Tulane running back out on the field for the second half and getting a long and loud standing ovation from the Tulsa crowd.
The actual football game, which did continue after Walker was taken from the field by ambulance, didn't seem very important after such a dramatic moment.
"I told Devon that help was on the way," said Johnson.
It appeared CPR was administered to Walker as he lay motionless on the field for more than 20 minutes.
However, Tulane team physician Dr. Buddy Savoie said he doesn't believe "his life was ever in danger."
Dr. Savoie said Walker was breathing and "I don't believe he ever lost consciousness."
TU team physicians Dr. George Mauerman and Dr. Brad Boone were on the field as Walker was being examined.
"The Tulsa medical guys did a fantastic job and they got him stabilized very quick," said Dr. Savoie.
Dr. Mauerman, the longtime TU football team doctor, said Dr. Savoie "is the guy to talk to."
Dr. Savoie said Walker "was stable" but had a serious injury.
It was a moment that no one who saw it will ever forget.
"It's just a scary, horrible, heartbreaking situation," said Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship. "We can't put ourselves in their shoes at all but certainly we just stand back and hurt with them right now.
"We just want to join them right now with our thoughts and prayers for that young man."
Fans in the stadium appeared to be frozen in their seats during the halftime that stretched out for more than 30 minutes as medical professionals crowded around Walker.
Two ambulances were brought onto the field. Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky along with athletic directors from both schools were on the field.
Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson, a Tulsa alum, rode in the ambulance with Walker to the hospital. He was reported to be staying in Tulsa awaiting the arrival of Walker's family.
EMSA officials said Walker was in "serious condition" as he was transported to a local hospital.
Dr. Savoie did confirm it was a "cervical spine fracture."
The injury, and the frightening moments as doctors from both teams worked on walker, cast a huge shadow over the rest of the game.
"The energy was gone out of us," said Tulsa quarterback Green. "It was gone out of them. It was gone out of the stadium.
"It was one of those things that it's just a dark cloud that stays over everything and it's tough."
For the record, Tulsa looked very sharp, especially in the first half. Green was terrific, hitting 16-of-26 for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Tulsa ran for 364 yards led by Alex Singleton's 102.
The Golden Hurricane gained 651 yards.
As good as it was for Tulsa, and the Hurricane looked very good, everything was overshadowed by the concern for Walker.
The second half was nothing more than both teams, and whatever was left of the crowd, in a hurry to get out of the stadium.
Johnson said there wasn't much for him to say to his team at halftime.
"The mood in our locker room was somber," said Johnson. "It was just a difficult day, one of the most difficult days I've ever had."
Johnson said the Green Wave "said a prayer and we got a few updates."
Then, Tulane went back out to play the second half.
In what has to be one of the most unusual moments for any college football team, Tulane was greeted by a standing ovation from the Tulsa crowd as the Green Wave ran back out on the field for the second half.
"That was really nice," said Tulane safety Sam Scofield.
Johnson said he briefly thought about whether the game would even continue in the second half but he does not believe cancelling the second half was ever "seriously considered."
Blankenship said TU officials "talked about it" but decided to go ahead and play the second half.
Still, heading back out to play more football "was one of the most awkward moments" of Johnson's years in football.
He said they were getting updates during halftime but during the second half "we didn't get any. I just wanted our guys to focus on one play at a time."