In Houston, the overwhelming concern was about cornerback and captain D.J. Hayden, who nearly lost his life in a freak injury. As it turns out, he left the hospital Monday afternoon and even visited with the team.
Hayden, a junior-college product who was Conference USA's defensive newcomer of the year in 2011, suffered a near-fatal vein rupture in practice on Nov. 6 as the Cougars were preparing for their game against Tulsa. He was rushed into immediate surgery for a tear of the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.
The injury is most associated with high-impact motor vehicle crashes, and is 95 percent fatal in the field. It seems nobody, including Houston team physician Walter Lowe, has heard of that happening in football.
"It puts things in perspective for everybody," UH coach Tony Levine said at his press conference Tuesday. "I go back to last Tuesday when after stretching we called the team together for a huddle, D.J. gave them a 30-second motivational talk, broke them down and then they split up into their groups.
"First part of practice, 20 minutes later a collision occurs and his life changes. That message was understood by everybody in the room."
The Cougars (4-6 ,3-3) may have three of their four captains sidelined for the bowl-elimination battle against the Herd (4-6, 3-3). Hayden and left tackle Jacolby Ashworth have been ruled out, and running back Charles Sims is doubtful. Levine said he would know more about his star running back's situation after Tuesday's practice, but Sims is not listed on the depth chart in the team's game notes.
Sims missed the Tulsa game after hurting his ankle the previous week against East Carolina.
"He's a great back, an NFL back," Holliday said. "He was hurt in the East Carolina game and it looked pretty bad. He's an excellent player. I hate to see anybody get hurt."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.