SAN DIEGO — The Aztecs' star running back Marshall Faulk, whose dream season was derailed Saturday night when a New Mexico player's helmet smacked against his ribs, spent Sunday in a hospital bed because the injury was worse than originally feared.
In addition to two broken ribs in his left side--one fractured and one cracked--Faulk suffered a collapsed lung. He is expected to remain in Mercy Hospital until Tuesday or Wednesday. He will not play Saturday at Texas El Paso, and Coach Al Luginbill is unsure when to expect him back. Faulk, who leads the nation in scoring and is second in rushing, is being listed as week-to-week by SDSU.
"We have no preconceived ideas," SDSU Coach Al Luginbill said of Faulk's return. "It could be next week (Oct. 26 at Utah), or it could be for the Miami game (the season finale Nov. 30)."
SDSU officials said doctors at Mercy discovered the collapsed lung through a CAT scan. Dr. Robert Straumfjord, SDSU's team doctor, said Faulk is in stable condition.
Faulk was behind closed doors in his hospital room and off limits to reporters. Reached by telephone, Faulk said he was "feeling so-so" but declined to talk further about the injury.
"He's getting along fine," said Luginbill, who said he visited Faulk late Saturday night and again Sunday. "There's little discomfort. He's staying in the hospital so they can monitor him and make sure there isn't any fluid in his lung."
Faulk was injured with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half of SDSU's 38-24 victory over New Mexico Saturday night. Lobo linebacker Jesse Becton hit Faulk from the left side on the back's 14th carry. Still, Faulk rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
In less than a half, Faulk had the sixth-most productive rushing day in the nation Saturday. And the Aztecs (4-2, 2-1) have no choice but to begin preparations today for UTEP without him.
"Our backs are even more against the wall now than they have been," Luginbill said. "But the team will respond well."
T.C. Wright, who was the Western Athletic Conference's second-leading rusher last season with 730 yards, and Wayne Pittman, a true freshman from Mira Mesa who has 57 yards in 17 carries this season, will split time replacing Faulk in SDSU's one-back offense.
"The one thing that Marshall gives us is that any given time, he has the capability on the field of taking it all the way," Luginbill said.
Faulk, averaging 18.33 points a game and 163.8 yards rushing per game, ran for a 63-yard touchdown on his first carry Saturday. So far, Faulk has touchdown runs of 61, 47, 25, 63 and 63 yards.
He has 983 yards rushing, and the injury prevented him from becoming the first freshman in NCAA history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in his first six games. Emmitt Smith, formerly of Florida, holds the freshman record with 1,000 yards rushing in seven games.
Faulk did manage to tie one record before leaving Saturday--most rushing touchdowns by a freshman. He has 16 rushing touchdowns, tying the record Hawaii's Jamal Farmer set in 1989.
Already this season, Faulk has set NCAA records with 386 yards rushing and 422 all-purpose running yards in SDSU's 55-34 victory over Pacific. He set several other NCAA freshman, WAC and SDSU records in that game.
Although Faulk's is the most noteworthy, SDSU had two other key injuries Saturday. Offensive guard Carlson Leomiti sprained his right ankle and cornerback Gary Taylor suffered a groin strain. Also, Zac Stokes, Taylor's back-up at cornerback, suffered a sprained left ankle.
Trainer Brian Barry said Taylor is out for UTEP Saturday, Leomiti is doubtful and Stokes is probable.
When asked about a possible Aztecs letdown without Faulk this week, Luginbill said he wasn't concerned.
"I think our team understands vividly what we have to do," Luginbill said. "We could be playing on the road without three players. We're not going to cancel the game. Somebody is going to rise to the occasion.
"We're going to play our tails off. I'll sit here and tell you that right now. I will be shocked if they let down because of the injury situation. This team has a habit of rising to the occasion. There is only one time (a 37-12 loss to UCLA) where that hasn't happened."
Luginbill said the biggest problem presented by Faulk's absence is that the Aztecs have been stripped of a big-play threat and will have to work harder on offense.
"It's no secret," Luginbill said. "How many long runs has he gotten in his first six games? That has been taken away. . . .
"We have to be less mistake prone without him or we're going to be in trouble. We moved the ball with T.C. in there Saturday. We didn't move it as quickly, but we moved it when we had to. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in T.C. and Wayne."