The quest for Ball State University's first win this year will have to continue without starting quarterback Kelly Page.
Coach Stan Parrish said Tuesday that Page would miss the final five games of the season with a broken right thumb. The injury will require surgery that will keep the redshirt freshman out of action for two to six weeks.
Page broke the thumb on his throwing hand in the second quarter of last Saturday's 31-17 loss to Bowling Green State University. He was running near the Ball State sideline when Keith Morgan and Darius Smith tackled him. He immediately went into the locker room for X-rays and did not return to the game. Monday an MRI was taken to confirm the injury.
Associate Athletics Trainer Shawn Comer said the surgery will be Wednesday in Indianapolis by Dr. Art Rettig. Rettig is the Colts' team doctor and has worked with Ball State before. Page will have two small screws inserted to stabilize the break, which occurred near the joint line, Comer said.
"If it was you or I, they would just put a cast on it and in six weeks it would have healed," Comer said. "But with Kelly being a quarterback, he needed surgery."
The recovery time varies for each person, but the success rate is very high, Comer said. There is no added complication because Page is a quarterback.
After the surgery, Ball State's training staff will focus on keeping the swelling down and pain management.
"We'll do exercises right away," Comer said. "Then we'll just see how he responds to therapy."
Page is the fourth Cardinal to be lost for the season. Captain Madaris Grant tore his ACL on Opening Night against the University of North Texas, wide receiver Seth White broke his collarbone at Army and Brandon Carnegie was lost with a back injury at Auburn University.
Page was at practice Tuesday wearing a cast. His backup, Tanner Justice, will start Saturday at Eastern Michigan University, Parrish said.
He expects the fifth-year senior to play much better Saturday than he did against the Falcons.
"We've got to pick out what he can do and not ask him to do something he can't do," Parrish said. "We've got some good stuff he can handle and we've got to rep those so our timing's right."
Page's injury leaves Ball State without a backup quarterback. Freshman Aaron Mershman will be elevated to No. 2 on the depth chart, but Parrish hopes to keep his redshirt intact. Should Justice get shaken up Saturday, the Cardinals are prepared to use their Wildcat package for an extended period of time.
"I'd prefer we not have to [use Mershman] because he's not ready to play," Parrish said. "Our other option is our Wildcat stuff."
Page finishes his freshman season with 1,019 passing yards and seven touchdowns. He completed 52.7 percent of his passes and was intercepted nine times. Page also rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns. He ranks 10th in the Mid-American Conference in total offense, averaging 163.9 yards per game.