Ahead of the most significant game of the season so far, the Huskies lost two defenders to retirement because of medical problems. Junior CB Austin Joyner has had multiple concussions, and junior DE Jared Pulu has a chronic kidney condition.
“Those are hard things, but they are in great care right now,” coach Chris Petersen told reporters after practice. “They will stay with us and always be part of us.”
Joyner, the state player of the year at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in 2015, started 10 games in 2017, making 40 tackles. He had a reduced role this season, playing in the first four games and sitting out the past two with injuries, but was named special-teams player of the game against North Dakota.
Joyner was also a running back in high school, totaling 5,593 career yards.
“The thing that is good about this situation, is this (medical retirement after head injuries) probably would have never happened eight years ago,” Petersen said. “I think everybody is just on top of this. It’s, ‘How many has he had? How serious is this?’ Everybody is hypersensitive to this, which I think is a good thing.
“He’s had a couple (concussions) since he has been here, and this was our doctor saying this was what had to happen.”
Joyner (5-11, 200) missed most of his freshman season after a knee injury in the opener.
Pulu, a Federal Way High School graduate, has not played this season after seeing action in 10 games last season. Pulu (6-4, 281) was a walk-on awarded a scholarship before the season.
“It’s tough, with all the hard work he has put in,” Petersen said of Pulu. “He was really going to be a contributor for us on that D-line, which is a hard place for us to find guys. But the good thing is, he is close to getting graduated.
“This is rare thing he has had for a long time, and it has to do with his kidneys.”
Both players will retain their scholarships.
The seventh-ranked Huskies are a 3.5-point favorite in the 12:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) match in Eugene against No. 17 Oregon. The Huskies won 38-3 a year ago at Husky Stadium and in 2016 triumphed 70-21 in Eugene, ending a string of 12 losses in a row to the Ducks.