Utah running back Zack Moss injured his knee in practice Wednesday and likely will miss the rest of the season, The Salt Lake Tribune has confirmed.
On Thursday evening, Moss tweeted, “So many emotions. So many tears. I’m coming back stronger. God’s plan.”
The program typically announces season-ending injuries; Utah Athletics is not addressing his status in advance of Saturday’s game vs. Oregon, but Moss reportedly has a torn meniscus. That’s not as significant as ligament damage, but he will have surgery in the next week, Sean O’Connell of Sirirus XM’s Pac-12 Radio reported.
Moss, a junior from Florida, has rushed for 1,092 yards in nine games and was on track to break Utah's single-season and career rushing records with three regular-season games remaining, plus a bowl game.
Prior to Wednesday’s practice, Moss had retweeted a Tribune story about his rise in Utah’s program, saying he was fulfilling his grandparents' forecast for him in college.
His injury comes after junior quarterback Tyler Huntley, Moss' high school teammate, sustained a broken collarbone in last Saturday's loss at Arizona State. Huntley will be out for at least Utah's remaining three regular-season games, the school said.
Utah (6-3, 4-3 Pac-12) is bowl-eligible; after facing Oregon, the Utes will close the regular season by visiting Colorado and hosting BYU. Utah is tied for the South division lead with USC and Arizona, although Arizona State (3-3) holds a potential tiebreaker over the Utes.
Moss' absence means that junior Armand Shyne, who has rushed for 166 yards on 37 carries, will become the starter in Utah's one-back offensive scheme. Redshirt freshman TJ Green has run 15 times for 91 yards. Devin Brumfield, a freshman, has appeared in two games. Coaches have hoped to redshirt Brumfield, who could play in four games this season and still preserve a year's eligibility.
The coincidental losses of Huntley and Moss play into a pattern of Utah's November troubles in the program's Pac-12 era. The timing of Moss' injury is similar to when former Ute star Devontae Booker's knee injury occurred in November 2015. Booker missed a 17-9 home loss to UCLA that ended Utah's hopes of winning a Pac-12 South title, although the Utes beat Colorado in the regular-season finale and defeated BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The next question is how Moss' injury will affect his choices of entering the NFL draft or returning to Utah for his senior year. He was widely believed to be looking toward a pro career, pending his postseason evaluation from NFL personnel. His surgery likely won’t require long-term rehab, so the injury logically would push him into pro football.
As for the current state of the Utes, offensive coordinator Troy Taylor will have to come up with even more creative solutions than already he was developing in Huntley’s absence. Without Moss, Taylor will rely heavily on Shyne, whose season-high workload has been 10 carries for 38 yards against Stanford.
As of the middle of the 2016 season, when Joe Williams temporarily was absent from the program, Shyne and Moss were considered about equal. Moss moved ahead in 2017, when Shyne missed the season with a broken arm. Shyne’s inadequate work in pass protection was cited as a reason he didn’t get much playing time in September, in addition to Moss' emergence.