Two trips to the end zone have cut short Kyle Carter's impressive debut season.
Initially hurt last month on a touchdown catch against Ohio State, Carter took another hard shot while looking for a score against Nebraska this past weekend, injuring his right wrist.
The redshirt freshman tight end will miss Saturday's game against Indiana and next week's finale against Wisconsin.
I'm not going to get into the details of that yet, out of respect for him and his mom, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. He had an excellent season for us. Here's a guy, a young player, that came in here trying to learn a position that is a very difficult position to learn. This is, offensively, it's the second hardest position to learn (in our system) behind quarterback. You're involved in the running game, in protections, you're involved in route running, you have to recognize coverage.
There are so many different things that you have to know. I thought as a young player he came in here and did a really nice job. He's got excellent hands, he's a tough kid, he's a great kid, just a really good guy to have on the team.
With Carter sidelined, the Nittany Lions are missing their second-leading receiver. In his first season on the field, Carter established himself as one of the most productive tight ends in the nation, finishing with 36 catches, 453 yards and two touchdowns. Entering this week, Carter ranks eighth in the country in receptions and 11th in yards among tight ends.
The Delaware product was on track for first-team All-Big Ten honors after a monster game against Iowa midway through the season. But the next week he hurt his ankle on his final snap against Ohio State, taking a low shot from a safety as he came down with a touchdown.
Carter missed the next week at Purdue but returned to face the Huskers last week in a limited capacity. His ankle not yet at 100 percent, he appeared only in certain packages. In the third quarter, Matt McGloin looked to hit him over the middle for a touchdown on third down but Carter got hit in traffic between two Nebraska defenders.
He immediately came off the field in discomfort, holding his wrist. Carter went to the locker room to get checked out and was emotional when he returned to the sideline later in the game. It would be his final play of the season.
For the most part, Carter's F-tight end position will likely be filled by true freshman Jesse James, who has caught a touchdown in each of the last two games.
But Carter's production in general will be replaced by James, Matt Lehman and Garry Gilliam, all of whom have played significant roles in the offense.
I think we have a great group of tight ends here, O'Brien said. They're smart, tough, they can block, run routes, catch. Some guys are better blockers than route-runners, some are better route-runners than blockers. But they all work hard, and they're all instinctive players, and I hope we can continue to grow in that position.
Aside from Carter, starting safety Malcolm Willis also left Saturday's game early. Willis suffered a knee injury against the Huskers and is listed as day-to-day.
Like last week with a couple of guys, we'll have to see later in the week how he does, O'Brien said. He did some things (in practice Monday), but we'll have to see how he is later in the week.
Penn State would likely use Williamsport's Jake Fagnano alongside Stephen Obeng-Agyapong if Willis were unavailable. Cornerback Adrian Amos has also played some safety this season with true freshman Da'Quan Davis coming in at corner.
Tailback Curtis Dukes, who has missed all but the opening kickoff two weeks ago with an apparent concussion, is also considered day-to-day.
Senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who played on a sprained knee at Nebraska, was not listed on the team's injury report and is expected to play against Indiana.