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Kentucky Football: Melvin Lewis to have surgery; May return for a bowl game

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With Melvin Lewis out, it's time for Matt Elam to step up.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats have been rather lucky on the injury front through the first half of the 2015 season, but that changed during their Week 7 loss to Auburn.

Starting nose tackle Melvin Lewis suffered a fractured fibula during the game that will sideline him for the rest of the regular season, head coach Mark Stoops announced Monday. Stoops also said Lewis will undergo surgery on Tuesday, and the recovery time for Lewis may actually allow him to return for a possible bowl game.

If UK were to maker a bowl, they'd be playing in late December or early January, giving Lewis about two full months to recover and rehab the injury. It's hard for anyone to recover from a leg fracture, let alone a 300-plus pound man, but there is at least some hope.

"It hits us," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said of Lewis’ injury following the loss to Auburn. "He’s not only a great player but a tremendous leader. He’s a guy that has overcome so much, and he’s a guy that has developed himself into a great player."

Lewis, a junior college transfer from Compton, CA, suffered the injury just before halftime of the loss while tackling an Auburn ball-carrier. The 6-foot-4, 332-pound senior laid on the field for several minutes before two trainers helped him to his feet and helped him limp into the locker room.

If this is the end for the senior's season and career, he finishes 2015 with 20 total tackles two tackles for loss and a sack. In his place at nose tackle will be sophomore Matt Elam, who filled in well for Lewis against Auburn.