KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Georgia running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligaments in their right knees during a 34-31 overtime victory at Tennessee.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt confirmed the severity of their injuries at a Sunday afternoon teleconference.
“It’s sad for our players,” Richt said. “You see them work so hard to get in position to play for Georgia, realize their dreams to play in big games like that, try to win championships and all that. (You see) how much work they put in and how hard they play for you and work and practice for you in the offseason and all that, and one play like that and it’s taken away from them. It’s heartbreaking.”
Richt also announced wide receiver Michael Bennett will undergo further evaluation to determine how much time he will miss after injuring his right knee Saturday at Tennessee. Richt said Bennett definitely wouldn’t play when the seventh-ranked Bulldogs (4-1, 3-0 SEC) host No. 25 Missouri (5-0, 1-0 SEC). Punter Collin Barber’s status is day to day after sustaining a concussion in the Tennessee game.
This represents the latest round of adversity for a Georgia team that has kept its national title hopes alive despite enduring all kinds of health problems.
Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell tore the ACL in his right knee during a season-opening loss to Clemson. Running back Todd Gurley, who had formed a dynamic duo in the backfield with Marshall, sat out the Tennessee game with a sprained left ankle. Georgia also played the Tennessee game without injured safeties Tray Matthews and Connor Norman.
Now the Bulldogs have been hit with even more injuries.
“I don’t know what hurts more — the pain of the injury or the pain of knowing you’re not going to be able to play anymore for a while,” Richt said. “I just feel bad for them.”
Marshall and Scott-Wesley both tweeted after their injuries.
“Thanks everyone for all the prayer and support,” Marshall said. “I will be fine. Minor setback for a major comeback!”
“I’ll be back better than ever!” Scott-Wesley vowed.
Richt said after the game that Gurley had a 50-50 chance of playing against Missouri, and he indicated Sunday that the sophomore’s status remained day to day. Richt also didn’t know if Matthews will return from his hamstring injury in time for the Missouri game. Richt said Norman has a “realistic shot” of playing against Missouri.
Marshall had rushed for 246 yards and one touchdown on 56 attempts this season. Scott-Wesley had 16 catches for 311 yards and two touchdowns, including an 85-yard touchdown that clinched a victory over South Carolina.
The losses could hinder an offense that has scored at least 34 points in each of its first five games. It certainly puts to rest the notion that Georgia would have an easier road now that it had made it through a brutal September schedule with its championship hopes intact.
The Tennessee game was supposed to begin the easier part of Georgia’s schedule. But the Bulldogs instead have plenty of questions as they get ready for an intriguing matchup with Missouri, which is coming off an impressive 51-28 victory at Vanderbilt.
“We have a lot of work to do before we play Missouri because that’s another team that will sneak up on you in a heartbeat,” Georgia outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.
Gurley and Marshall had formed one of the nation’s top running back tandems before they were hurt. Gurley has 71 carries for 450 yards and four touchdowns this season. Last season, the duo combined to rush for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Freshman J.J. Green stepped up in their absence at Tennessee and ran for 129 yards on 17 carries. Green had entered the game with only five career rushing attempts.
“When we signed him, we really didn’t know what he was going to play,” Richt said after the Tennessee game. “We thought he could play corner, we thought he could play receiver. This spring we knew we had some issues at the tailback position so we just asked him what do you think about playing some tailback and he said, ‘OK, Coach, I’ll play.’ Turns out he’s a tough nut.”
Another freshman, Brendan Douglas, scored a touchdown against the Volunteers.
The Bulldogs may need both newcomers to deliver a repeat performance against Missouri.