MINNEAPOLIS — The white-hot glow surrounding the offensively explosive U of M football Gophers dimmed a bit Monday, with news that leading wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell will miss the remainder of the season after suffering an injury against Colorado Saturday.
Gopher head coach P.J. Fleck told reporters during a weekly press conference Monday that Bell injured his lower leg, and will have surgery Wednesday. Fleck said Minnesota will apply to the NCAA for a medical redshirt since Autman-Bell was injured so early in the season, which would allow him to come back next year as a seventh-year senior. Whether he does so is up to Autman-Bell and his family.
"It's football, you all saw the play," Fleck told reporters. "When you watch the play over and over you still can't see it (the injury). It's not a twist, there's not a turn, it just goes."
Fleck insisted that the senior wideout will remain an important part of the squad despite the fact he will not be catching footballs. "He is a huge member of the football team, will continue to be a huge member of this football team. His leadership is second to none, and we're going to need that from him as keep going through Big Ten play here," the coach said.
"It's unfortunate, your heart breaks for him because he's worked incredibly hard, but we have a lot of people on this football team, Chris would tell you the exact same thing, there's a lot of people on this football team here in year six that can make a ton of plays for us."
Autman-Bell had 11 catches in three games so far this season for a total of 214 yards and one touchdown. In 2021-22 he caught 36 balls for 506 yards and six TDs. Over his six-year career with the Gophers Autman-Bell has played in 47 games, and has a reception in each of his last 41 games, which ESPN says is the longest active streak in the FBS.
This also marks the second consecutive year the U of M has lost a top offensive performer early in the season. Last year running back Mo Ibrahim tore his Achilles tendon after running for more than 160 yards against then-number one ranked Ohio State in the first game of the season. Ibrahim is now recovered, and ran for more than 200 yards against Colorado Saturday.
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