Stanford's defense suffered a tremendous setback with the loss of senior defensive end Ben Gardner. Gardner suffered left pectoral muscle injury in the win at Oregon State on Saturday, and the school confirmed that he is done for the season.
The injury marks the end of Gardner's collegiate career, as the fifth-year senior will now focus on a full recovery and preparation for the 2014 NFL draft. CBSSports.com currently projects Gardner as a third round pick, ranking as the No. 11 player at his position prior to the injury.
Gardner talked about his pro prospects in a release sent out to Stanford fans.
"During my five years at Stanford, I was fortunate enough to start 34 games, compete in three BCS Bowl Games, and win a Pac-12 Championship," said Gardner. "Along the way, I was able to play with countless NFL stars, learn from dozens of great coaches, and work with a group of men who I consider to be my family on a daily basis. For these reasons, I consider myself one of the luckiest 22-year-old men on the planet. Although this injury will undoubtedly make my transition to professional football more challenging, I have never been one to back down from a challenge, and I like my chances. People have doubted me for my entire career and they will continue to do so, but I trust that my experiences at Stanford have put me in a position where I cannot fail."
Gardner recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this season, but his experience will be missed as much as his statistical production. The Cardinal defense has been tremendous under the leadership of defensive coordinator Derek Mason, and Gardner has been a staple of Mason's units since he was promoted in 2011.
The defensive line already suffered one loss when senior defensive end Henry Anderson suffered a knee injury that has kept him out of the lineup since early September. Anderson could see his first Pac-12 action of 2013 for the epic rematch against Oregon next Thursday night, but his status will not be determined until game week.
Stanford and Oregon are both off this week in preparation for that Nov. 7 matchup.