Mike Casazza: Rigg's gesture a welcome sight
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The details remain fuzzy for Doug Rigg, which is to be expected when a helmet-to-helmet hit turns out the lights, wiping away the memory of the moments before contact and making a mess of the hours and even the days that follow.
Most of what the West Virginia linebacker knows about the collision with teammate Karl Joseph Saturday came from watching the play on tape. There remains one clear souvenir from the seven minutes he lay on his back before the 84,692 at Memorial Stadium and the national television audience that included the rightfully frightful friends and family watching the game against Oklahoma.
It was with observers in mind that a paramedic leaned over Rigg, his facemask unscrewed and removed from his helmet, his head, torso and legs secured to a backboard that was loaded on a cart that would take him off the field, and freed his right hand from a strap that was folding his arms securely across his chest.
"Give the crowd a wave," the man told Rigg.
Rigg raised his right arm as much as the restraints would allow. A white glove motioned side to side, slowly, but reassuringly to cut the tension in the stadium.
"Once I gave the wave, I heard a sigh of relief from the people, like they were saying, 'Hey, he can move. He's not paralyzed,'" Rigg said. "A lot of people back home told me if I didn't wave, it would have been a lot worse for them."
Rigg knew no better. He did not have his wits, the ones that were scrambled when he was chasing Sooners running back Brennan Clay, who saw Joseph streaking in from the secondary and ducked out of the way of Joseph's tackle. It left Rigg's helmet exposed to Joseph's.
The hit drew gasps from the crowd. Rigg rolled to his left and over onto his back, both of his legs bent at the knee and pointing awkwardly to the right. He was unconscious and Joseph knew it. He quickly rose to his knees, leaned over Rigg and motioned for help.
Rigg learned all of that by watching the play on film. The first thing he remembered after chasing Clay's No. 24 was hearing trainer Dave Kerns ordering Rigg, "Wake up. Wake up."
He did, and while not entirely sure why everyone was so concerned. He didn't see the replays, the ones that showed Joseph's head coming down hard on the right side of Rigg's helmet and sharply forcing it back.
He had no idea Oklahoma trainers had hurried to WVU's side of the field to help. He didn't see teammates and opponents take a knee around the scene. He never saw Joseph close by, his left hand over his eyes.
"I honestly didn't know any of that," he said. "I saw Dave. I had to look around afterward to see that everyone was around me. I had no idea. I thought it was just Dave over me. The next thing I know, they're putting be on the board and telling me not to move.
"It was definitely a memorable experience - or, kind of a memorable experience."
Rigg is day-to-day with the concussion. He said he still has headaches and feels a fog roll in from time to time, but is "pretty good, for the most part."
Coach Dana Holgorsen hasn't committed to playing or sidelining Rigg Saturday.
The Mountaineers (1-1) play Georgia State (0-2) at noon at Mountaineer Field. The game will be televised by ROOT Sports.
This has happened to Rigg before. He was a freshman at Bergen (N.J) Catholic when he was carted off the field after a similar play. Maybe that's why he played it so cool on the backboard Saturday.
"I knew I wasn't paralyzed when I woke up," he said. "They were doing tests. I could move my fingers and move my toes. I knew I had full function and movement. I was just really out of it."
Rigg suffered a concussion on the play, and as odd as it sounds, it was just a concussion. The immediate concern is a neck or spine injury. It seemed likely Rigg would be staying in a local hospital overnight, and the concerned coaches and teammates boarded the plane that would take them back home with that on their minds.
They were texting Rigg, asking him how he was doing, letting him know they were thinking of him, wondering when he'd be back with the team.
And then Rigg, cleared by doctors, boarded the plane.
"It was a crazy feeling," Rigg said.
He met Holgorsen first and heard some cheers from teammates before the reunion with Joseph.
"He was the first guy to really say something to me," Rigg said. "When he saw me, he asked me if I was all right. I saw he was a little uncomfortable with it, but he knew I had not problem with it. It's part of the game and it's unfortunate it happened."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.