SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah running back Devontae Booker will miss the final two games of the regular season and perhaps the Utes’ postseason after having knee surgery Thursday.
Booker’s father, Ronnie Booker, confirmed his son suffered a torn meniscus and bone bruise in his left knee last week against Arizona. The hope is that Booker will at least be able to participate in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 30.
”It’s unfortunate,” Ronnie Booker said.
No. 18 Utah hosts UCLA on Saturday in a must-win for the team to remain in contention for a Pac-12 championship. The Utes need to win their final two games and have USC lose to either UCLA or Oregon to win the South division and earn a berth in the Dec. 5 title game.
Ronnie Booker said they hope Utah can win the conference and have a January bowl game that would give Devontae more time to heal and possibly participate.
”He was disappointed,” Ronnie Booker said. ”He said, `Well, dad, it happens.”’
”He said, `Well, dad, all I’m thinking about now is getting the surgery done so I can start getting back to rehab and getting back right. That’s what’s on my mind now.”’
ESPN 700 first reported the running back was scheduled for surgery.
Booker is the centerpiece of the offense for the Utes. He ranks No. 3 in the Pac-12 in rushing yards and No. 2 in rushing touchdowns. Booker is third in school history with 2,773 yards rushing. He was in pads at practice on Tuesday, but Ronnie Booker said they were testing to see what he could do.
Coach Kyle Whittingham declined to update Booker’s status after practice Tuesday and university spokeswoman Liz Abel said in an email Thursday that there was no injury update on Booker.
Junior running back Joe Williams will take over as the No. 1 running back. Whittingham said Monday that Williams could shoulder a ”heavy workload” if Booker was out.
Williams is in his first year with the program after transferring from ASA College. He played one year at UConn in 2012 before transferring to the junior college in Brooklyn, New York. Williams rushed for 37 yards on seven carries after Booker was injured last week.
”He’s a very capable back,” Whittingham said. ”He’s faster (than Booker). He’s like a 10.5 (second) 100-meter guy. That’s his real forte, his speed. He’s not quite as big, maybe 10-12 pounds lighter than Devontae. But he’s explosive and he’s tough.”
The loss puts the onus on senior quarterback Travis Wilson and the passing game, which has struggled in 2015. The Utes have the No. 11 pass offense in the conference with an average of 205.1 yards per game. Wilson has thrown for 1,806 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 66.3 completion percentage.