ATHENS — Every team expects to lose a player or two due to injury throughout the season.
The hope is that the injured player isn’t a key contributor and his role will be easily replaced by someone else. But that didn’t happen to the University of Georgia.
Running back Keith Marshall and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley were both lost for the season with knee injuries against Tennessee, receiver Michael Bennett suffered a torn meniscus, while bruising tailback Todd Gurley has dealt with an ankle injury.
Quarterback Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs were able to overcome the plethora of injuries to topple Tennessee in overtime, but couldn’t get past Missouri at home on Saturday.
“Certainly when you have injuries or penalties or any setbacks in football, you’ve got to assess where you’re at and what you’ve got to do to succeed,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt following the loss.
“We used a lot of energy this week looking at situations and personnel to get the best plan for who we had. We moved the ball good, but we turned it over too many times. We also had possessions in the red zone where we got field goals instead of touchdowns, and that was a big part of the game.”
Without the Bulldogs’ big-time playmakers they were limited offensively but still had a chance at a comeback. The offense had averaged 39.8 points per game entering the Missouri game, but totaled its lowest output of the season with 26.
However, the main cause of concern may not lie with the offense, but rather with the defense, which ranks tied for 65th in the nation in total defense and 97th in third down defense. The Bulldogs don’t have any notable injuries on defense, but have given up 30 or more points in four of their games.
Michael Scullin, a walk-on offensive lineman and 2013 South Forsyth graduate, said Georgia fans shouldn’t worry too much about injuries and should trust head coach Mark Richt.
“We have a very talented group,” Scullin said. “We’ve had a lot of guys step up. [Richt] has a great program and he knows how to run a football team really well.”
Part of running a football team is making sure athletes succeed in the classroom. Scullin is majoring in mechanical engineering, but said it’s “nothing I can’t handle.” The redshirt freshman touts an A- grade point average and attends a 7 a.m. study hall to make sure he continues to succeed.
“I think the hardest part is just waking up in time,” Scullin said. “We’ve all got good comradery and chemistry, so it’s not too bad.”
Despite the injuries, Richt stressed the importance of staying positive and moving on to next Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt.
“We have to build on the positives, try to get a few guys healthy and get ready to go play Vanderbilt,” Richt said. “We'll look at the film and make our corrections. We’ll get our plan for Vanderbilt. …We just can’t let the world stop. We’ve got to keep pressing forward. That’s what our plan is.”