Georgia's Keith Marshall out for year
Can Georgia survive injuries?
In light of Georgia's rash of injuries to key offensive players, KC Joyner evaluates whether the Bulldogs can stay on track to win the SEC East and vie for the BCS title. Story
"It's sad for our players," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "You've seen them work so hard to get in position to play for Georgia and realize their dreams to play in big games like that and try to win championships and all that. You see how much work they put in and how hard they play for you and work in practice for you and that offseasons and all that.
"And then they know in one play like that, it's taken away from them. It's heartbreaking. I don't know what hurts more: the pain of injury or just the pain of knowing that you're not going to get to play anymore for a while. I just feel bad for them."
Richt was unable to offer a prognosis on Michael Bennett's injured right knee. The junior receiver will undergo arthroscopic surgery Tuesday to determine the extent of the setback he suffered Saturday while blocking at the end of a run.
"I just don't know," Richt said of Bennett, who also missed half of last season with a torn right ACL.
Even if Bennett returns this fall, No. 7 Georgia's prolific offense has absorbed a remarkable amount of injury damage since the season started.
Junior receiver Malcolm Mitchell suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of the opener at Clemson while celebrating a Todd Gurley touchdown run. Then All-SEC tailback Gurley rolled his left ankle in the second quarter of last week's win against LSU. Richt said Sunday that Gurley is questionable for next weekend's game against No. 25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0).
"The last thing we want to do is rush anything on Todd," Richt said after telling reporters Saturday that Gurley was 50-50 to face Missouri.
And now with Marshall and Scott-Wesley joining Mitchell on the sideline for the rest of the season and Bennett out for the time being, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo must cobble together an offense without at least one of his top two tailbacks and three of his top four receivers.
"It takes a little while to start processing all that," Richt said. "We're really focusing more on what we're going to do this week. ... So we've got to just dig deep and give some other guys opportunities and get them all repped up and make some plays."
Freshmen J.J. Green (129 rushing yards vs. Tennessee) and Brendan Douglas (25 yards rushing, 32 receiving) filled in competently for Gurley and Marshall on Saturday, but Georgia's offense bogged down with so many playmakers out of the lineup.
Paced by a 57-yard Aaron Murray run, the Bulldogs (4-1, 3-0 SEC) rushed for 167 yards in the second half against the Vols. But they passed for just 77 yards after intermission and were just 1-for-9 on third down until Murray led the Bulldogs to three third-down conversions on their 75-yard touchdown drive at the end of regulation, which ended with his game-tying scoring pass to Rantavious Wooten with 5 seconds remaining.
Richt said the two freshmen might again be the centerpieces of Georgia's running game on Saturday, with walk-ons Kyle Karempelis and Brandon Harton and possibly fellow freshman A.J. Turman playing a supporting role if Gurley is unable to go.
"We're not going to push him any faster," Richt said. "We like the two true freshman backs that have played recently. We think they're good football players and A.J.'s a talent. And these other two guys, Karempelis and Harton, have played well for us before."
Georgia also lost punter Collin Barber to a concussion -- suffered as he chased Devaun Swafford on Tennessee's blocked punt touchdown in the third quarter -- and played the entire game without receiver Jonathon Rumph (hamstring) and safeties Tray Matthews (hamstring) and Connor Norman (concussion).
Richt said Barber and Norman are day to day and said Rumph will likely be unavailable for the Missouri game, but remains unsure whether Matthews will recover in time to contribute Saturday.
"You know how hamstrings go," Richt said. "Sometimes they go relatively quick, sometimes they take a while, so I don't know about him."