ROAD TO THE LIBERTY BOWL: Injuries, returns even out bowl prep


Running back Shontrelle Johnson runs the ball in the game against Baylor on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Jack Trice Stadium. Johnson rushed for 74 yards in the 35-21 win.

Jake Calhoun

Despite getting extra weeks of preparation for the upcoming Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31, the ISU football team has not been absent of losing key players.

On Sunday, ISU coach Paul Rhoads said both defensive end Nick Kron (foot injury) and running back Shontrelle Johnson (knee injury) will not play in the Liberty Bowl, putting an end to their season.

Having already experienced a season-ending injury much earlier in the season when he was pulled after four games due to a neck injury in October 2011, a serious injury is no stranger to Johnson.

“You get a big wave of emotions,” Rhoads said. “He was crushed [Saturday], upbeat — if you want to call it that — [Sunday] and I think what he’s gone through already with the neck has helped his mindset.”

Rhoads said Johnson’s injury took place during a non-contact 7-on-7 drill on Saturday.

“He planted — you know how violently he plants — and yeah, something gave,” Rhoads said.

Through 12 games, Johnson served as the team’s leading rusher with 504 rushing yards along with 4.4 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns.

Kron was a major role player on the defensive line, tallying five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack in all 12 games played.

“To be honest, [it hurts us] a little bit because you know we rotate our line — D-ends and D-linemen,” said defensive end Rony Nelson. “But we’ll make an adjustment to that when the times come.”

Givens, Watson return to bolster secondary

With the losses comes some key returns for the Cyclones (6-6, 3-6 Big 12), who will be getting strong safety Durrell Givens and cornerback Jansen Watson back in time for the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis, Tenn.

Watson, who is in his first year at starting cornerback, has not played since tearing his MCL on Nov. 3 against Oklahoma.

Givens missed significantly less time after sustaining an ankle injury on Nov. 17 against Kansas.

“Having all our starters, all our key players out on the field, it’s an excellent feeling,” Watson said.

Having both back will certainly help the pass defense that gave up 279.7 yards per game, dipping it to 109th in the nation among FBS teams. Givens led the nation in total takeaways this season with nine — six fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

“More confident, more comfortableness with the other players,” Givens said of having the secondary at full strength. “Once you play with somebody for so long, you get to know each other. So as far as communication and having everybody back, it just feels like we’re one again.”