Marshall Morgan’s foot landed squarely and the ball soared upward through the goal posts to secure Georgia’s 34-31 overtime win against Tennessee on Saturday. The Bulldog nation exploded in cheers, many fans and players jumping wildly with excitement. A handful of key players remained firmly on the ground though after a string of injures left coach Mark Richt digging deep into his depth chart to pull out able bodies. With championship dreams on the line, the Georgia’s future is uncertain.
Three of Georgia’s top offensive players fell to knee injuries against the Vols. Sophomore running back Keith Marshall’s season came to a bitter end when he took a low hit in the first quarter. Marshall shed some tears as his teammates hugged him when he was unable to return to the field with an ACL tear. He came into the game having rushed for 213 yards and a touchdown. With fellow running back Todd Gurley sidelined for the game after an ankle injury against LSU, Marshall was expected to lead the rushing game. Gurley’s condition remains day-to-day, but CBS Sports reports that his return is “doubtful” for this Saturday’s game against No. 25 Missouri.
In the third quarter, wide receiver Michael Bennett suffered from an injury to his right knee, the knee in which he tore his ACL early last season. Bennett has been diagnosed with a torn meniscus and underwent surgery today. His return date has not been set, but Missouri is out of the question and even the November 2nd game against Florida is questionable. Both games hold big stakes on the road to the Southeastern Conference championship.
Another wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley was sidelined for the season later in the third quarter after suffering a non-contact injury to knee while covering a punt. To round out the quickly depleting first team, punter Collin Barber suffered a concussion after Tennessee blocked a punt to tie the game. Pair the casualties from Tennessee’s game with the list of previously injured Bulldogs, and you have a doghouse full of problems.
With many of quarterback Aaron Murray’s favorite targets downfield and rushing gone, those who are able have to step up to cover the holes if Georgia hopes to remain favorites for the SEC East crown.
Part of that task falls to junior wide receiver Chris Conley to maintain his forward momentum and become a major playmaker for the Bulldogs. He had five catches for 64 yards and an amazing one-handed catch for a touchdown against the Vols. Rantavious Wooten must also continue playing like he did against Tennessee where he caught a career-high six passes for two touchdowns including the two-yard pass that sent the game into overtime.
“It’s sad,” Richt said. “You see them work so hard to put themselves in position to play for Georgia, and realize their dreams of wanting to play in big games like that, and championships, and try to win championships and all that. … And one play like that, it’s taken away from them. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t know what hurts more, the pain of the injury or the pain of knowing you’re not gonna be able to play again for awhile.”
The win against the Volunteers in Knoxville was not a pretty one, but with Murray’s continued confidence and playmaking ability and a lot of handwork from the unseasoned end of the depth chart, the Bulldogs can still hope to make a return trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game.
Now, they just have much less room for mistakes.