The Georgia Bulldogs pulled out a win over the Tennessee Volunteers in overtime, but their road to the SEC title game became significantly more challenging with the injuries to several key players on the offense.
Running back Keith Marshall was the first of three to succumb to a knee injury in Knoxville this weekend. Wide receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley also left the game with knee injuries, and early speculation is that all three may be season-ending.
Even with towels shielding their faces, Marshall and Scott-Wesley were visibly emotional while being attended by the training staff on the sidelines, clearly fearing the worst.
Marshall started the game at running back in place of Todd Gurley, who sat out after suffering an ankle injury last Saturday against LSU. He had five carries for 33 yards against Tennessee before being injured on the Bulldogs’ second possession of the game. Through the team’s first four games, Marshall is second on the team with 56 carries for 252 yards and a touchdown.
With both star rushers hurt, freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas were the next men up. The speedster Green had a big day with 17 carries for 129 yards, while Douglas finished with 25 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Both young players will see their workloads increase significantly in the coming weeks. Gurley may be able to return soon, but even so, his ankle probably won’t be at 100 percent, while Marshall could miss the rest of the season.
Receivers Bennett and Scott-Wesley combined for three catches for 36 yards before their respective injuries, but the offense appeared hamstrung without them during the tense second half. Fifth-year senior Rantavious Wooten stepped up with two touchdown catches against the Vols, his first this season.
The Bulldogs defense has let its opponents stay in games all season, and with key players missing, the offense might not be able to continue to bail out the defense.
Without Scott-Wesley, Bennett and Marshall, Georgia is down three of its top five receivers. Senior quarterback Aaron Murray, who now holds the SEC record for career passing yards, isn’t known for being fleet of foot, but of the healthy players on the UGA offense, he is currently the team’s second-leading rusher.
The Bulldogs found a way to work with what they had to get the overtime win this weekend, but they’ve played in some nailbiters this year even when they were at full strength. Georgia’s early schedule — at Clemson and Tennessee, at home against LSU and South Carolina — was a doozy, but if today’s injuries on offense are as bad as they looked, the rest of the season could be even tougher.