- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Southern California tailback Stafon Johnson probably wouldn’t have survived his weightlifting accident without his muscular athlete’s neck, which helped maintain his airway when a weight bar crashed down on it, a doctor said Tuesday.

Johnson could communicate nonverbally with his family members and teammates Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after his bench-pressing accident in the Trojans’ weight room. The bar crushed his neck and larynx, which required seven hours of surgery.

Johnson’s fitness helped him survive, said Dr. Gudata Hinika, the trauma medical director at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Johnson is unlikely to play again for Southern Cal, but coach Pete Carroll said he is grateful for the team leader’s improved health.

“He’s not talking, but he was doing his wave and writing,” Carroll said. “It’s very uplifting for his mom and his family and all the guys who got a chance to go down there.”

Hinika said Johnson is recovering well and is in stable condition. Johnson, who was taken away from Southern Cal’s campus wearing a neck brace, woke up Tuesday morning after undergoing an emergency tracheotomy, followed by reconstructive surgery.

Johnson’s mother, Kim Mallory, happened to be working at the same downtown hospital where her son was transported Monday.

It’s unclear when Johnson will be able to speak again, but he’s expected to recover fully.

OREGON: Cornerback Walter Thurmond will have surgery on his right knee and miss the rest of his senior season.

Thurmond hurt the knee on the opening kickoff of Saturday’s 42-3 victory over California.

The school said an MRI revealed season-ending surgery was needed.

WASHINGTON STATE: Jeff Tuel will become the first freshman to start at quarterback for the Cougars since Drew Bledsoe in 1990.

Coach Paul Wulff decided Tuel will start Saturday’s game at Oregon after playing well in last weekend’s loss at Southern Cal.

Tuel entered the game in the second quarter in relief of Marshall Lobbestael and completed 14 of 22 passes for 130 yards and one interception.

NEW BOWL: A college football bowl game will be played at Yankee Stadium starting in 2010.

The New York Yankees scheduled a news conference Wednesday to announce the details. The game is expected to match teams from the Big East and Big 12 conferences.

The Yankees already have signed a deal with Army for the service academy to play four games over the next five seasons at the new $1.5 billion dollar stadium, starting next year against Notre Dame.

WYOMING: Coach Dave Christensen is being treated for a kidney stone.

Athletics department spokesman Tim Harkins said the 48-year-old went to the hospital Tuesday morning.

Assistant head coach Dan Hammerschmidt filled in for Christensen later in the morning on the weekly Mountain West Conference coaches teleconference.

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