The horrifying weight room accident that crushed the neck and larynx of USC tailback Stafon Johnson earlier this week spurred concern among the Pac-10's coaches.
Johnson was bench pressing when the bar slipped from his right hand and fell onto his throat on Monday morning. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was in surgery for some seven hours.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley called the incident both scary and sad. "It makes everybody in the weight room revisit their procedures and we obviously will talk about ours just to make sure," Riley said. "It's an accident, but whatever you can do to help prevent it, you've got to look at it."
One of Johnson's doctors said he may not have survived if he did not have such a muscular physique. The senior's USC career likely is over, but he's expected to make a full recovery that could allow him to play pro football.
Johnson, a senior who scored No. 7 USC's go-ahead touchdown against Ohio State two weeks ago, was the Trojans' second-leading rusher with 157 yards and five touchdowns as the team's short-yardage specialist this season behind starter Joe McKnight. He had 705 yards rushing and nine touchdowns last season for the Trojans.
Johnson had a spotter when the accident happened — an assistant strength and conditioning coach was standing over him.
"You know, I can't tell you how many times that he's been in the weight room working hard and knowing what to do. He could teach our program as well as anybody and all of that," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "So it's just an unfortunate occurrence, so that's it."
First-year Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian had worked with Johnson as USC's offensive coordinator.
"It's a reality check to our kids that you need to use proper technique and need to have spotters and all the things that go into weightlifting because it is a very serious situation right now," Sarkisian said.
Among the seventh-ranked Trojans — who visit No. 24 Cal this Saturday — there was relief that it wasn't worse.
"It's very serious stuff, and if anything, it's something we can use," offensive lineman
Jeff Byers said. "Play every play like it's your last, because you never know. Stafon had no idea that might be his last game. Guys have every reason now to come out and refocus on why you love the game, because you never know when it can be taken from you."
Washington State has become the latest Pac-10 team to switch quarterbacks.
Coach Paul Wulff announced that true freshman Jeff Tuel would start for the Cougars against No. 16 Oregon on Saturday.
Tuel was expected to redshirt this season, but inconsistent play by Marshall Lobbestael prompted Wulff to use Tuel last weekend at Southern California.
Tuel came in during the second quarter and completed 14 of 22 passes for 130 yards and one interception. He also ran nine times for 34 yards in the 27-6 loss to the Trojans.
Last weekend, Arizona benched quarterback Matt Scott to start Nick Foles, who passed for 254 yards and three touchdowns in the Wildcats' 37-32 victory over Oregon State.
The Beavers are facing questions at quarterback now that Lyle Moevao is back at practice after a slow recovery from rotator cuff surgery. Oregon State is 2-2 with Sean Canfield at QB.
At Arizona State, Danny Sullivan has completed less than 50 percent of his passes this season. Against Georgia last weekend, Sullivan completed 10 of 32 passes for 116 yards and an interception.
Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson wasn't ready to give up on Sullivan.
"He's only played three football games so we'll see what happens. I think he's played pretty darn good and obviously his stats weren't as good Saturday, but he did some awfully good things in that game too," Erickson said. "He made some throws at the end of the game that were pretty darn good.
"When you sit and evaluate everything that he does, everyday, like I do, it's a little different than somebody from the outside watching a game."
Three other Pac-10 teams are starting freshmen quarterbacks this season: true freshman Matt Barkley at Southern California, and redshirt freshmen Kevin Prince at UCLA and Andrew Luck at Stanford.
WAIT, IS NOTRE DAME IN THE PAC-10?
There are four non-conference games left in the Pac-10 and all of them are against Notre Dame.
Washington, USC, Washington State and Stanford all play the Fighting Irish.
The Pac-10 is 19-7 against out-of-conference foes so far this season.
Oregon tight end Ed Dickson, Arizona cornerback Devin Ross and Stanford kick returner Chris Owusu collected conference player of the week honors.
Dickson caught three touchdown passes in Oregon's 42-3 upset win over California. Overall he had a career-high 11 receptions for 148 yards.
Ross had a game-high 12 tackles, seven solo, and an interception in Arizona's 37-32 victory at Oregon State.
Owusu returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown in Stanford's 34-14 victory over Washington. Owusu has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, tying the Pac-10 single season record.