Eastern Washington's injury woes mounted on Tuesday with the announcement linebacker Zach Johnson will have his season cut short by the same knee injury for the second time in three years.
Head coach Beau Baldwin of the defending FCS champion Eagles announced the senior co-captain has been playing this season with a chronic tear in his left patellar tendon and will have surgery as early as Thursday.
Two years ago, Johnson first suffered the injury and required surgery to repair the patellar tendon. He then missed the entire 2009 season after a blood clot developed in his leg following the surgery.
Baldwin said Johnson and EWU will appeal to the NCAA in the off-season to grant him a sixth year to complete his four years of eligibility. The injuries will wipe out at least 19 games - 12 in 2009 and seven remaining regular- season games this year.
"He just needs to get it done," Baldwin said of the surgery. "The silver lining is that he has a very good possibility of getting a sixth year and playing next season. I know he's going to continue to be a great captain this season by encouraging and helping his teammates."
EWU's injuries have been most prevelant on the offensive line, with five injured players. The Eagles have begun the season with four straight losses.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Johnson made The Sport Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason All-America third team. The weakside linebacker is tied for the team lead with 30 tackles and has 260 in his career to rank 10th in school history.
His twin brother Matt is a standout safety for the Eagles.
Baldwin said Johnson will probably be replaced in the starting lineup by sophomore Grant Williams. Senior Bobby Gentry would probably have been the starter, but he suffered a biceps injury against Montana State last Saturday and is questionable for this weekend's game against Weber State.