One of the few times a boisterous Bill Snyder Family Stadium fell quiet Saturday came at the 7:26 mark of the third quarter.
Moments after Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson’s third rushing touchdown of the day, the hosts kicked off to No. 5 Oklahoma. And things continued to go the Wildcats’ way: linebacker Eric Gallon II poked the ball away from Sooner running back T.J. Pledger. Defensive back Ross Elder jumped on the ball to give it right back to K-State.
While the Wildcats won the change of possession — and eventually the game, 48-41, in one of the biggest upsets of the college football season to date — they lost Gallon. Potentially for the rest of the fifth-year senior’s playing career.
Sailing past Pledger — Gallon extended his arm on his way by to force the fumble — Gallon’s right leg collided with teammate Landry Weber. Gallon crumpled to the ground. He remained there for an extended period of time while being tended to by K-State’s medical staff. Gallon eventually was put onto a stretcher and taken off the field in the back of a cart.
The injury was gruesome enough that ABC, which was handling the national television broadcast, declined to show the play again.
“There is no need to show you a replay,” said Bob Wischusen, ESPN’s play-by-play announcer, who speculated that Gallon had suffered a severe knee injury.
Following the victory, K-State head coach Chris Klieman did not disclose the injury’s nature, either. Instead, he focused on Gallon himself. What made it especially gut-wrenching, Klieman said, is that Saturday marked the first time this season the team planned to give Gallon a bigger role on defense.
Before his forced fumble, Gallon had another stellar play on the Sooners’ previous possession: breaking up a pass intended for receiver Charleston Rambo on third down, leading to a three-and-out from the nation’s most explosive offense.
Seeing Gallon motionless minutes later was tough for Klieman to stomach.
“I’m sick for ‘EG,’ because this was his first opportunity, really, where we were going to give him significant snaps,” Klieman said. “And he made a big play knocking a slant ball away.”
From his vantage point, Klieman said he couldn’t make out what happened on the kickoff, which occurred near the Sooners’ sideline.
“When I went to the sideline, a couple of the OU guys said, ‘Coach, it didn’t look good,’” Klieman said. “So my prayers are out to him.”
With Gallon’s injury fresh on his players’ minds, Klieman said his chief objective was to make sure the team immediately refocused.
“When ‘EG’ got hurt and there was kind of a delay,” Klieman said, “we just went right back to that thought process of, ‘Attack this next play. Attack the process within this play. You do your job.’”
The Wildcats heeded their coach’s words: Three plays after Gallon’s forced fumble, Thompson scored his fourth and final rushing touchdown of the day to push the lead to 41-23 following Blake Lynch’s extra point.
Despite the magnitude of the win, Klieman’s thoughts didn’t stray far from Gallon.
“We said a prayer for him in the locker room,” Klieman said. “I feel sick for a kid who’s a fifth-year senior.”