Georgia fans were mightily disappointed to find out that star running back Todd Gurley will miss the remainder of the 2014 season after tearing his ACL on Saturday during the Bulldogs’ 34-7 win against Auburn. The junior has been a joy to watch on the field, but his season has been far from a smooth ride.
Let’s look back at the roller coaster year Todd Gurley has had. Prior to this college football season, Gurley was on every watch list for this year’s prestigious Heisman Trophy. His name was frequently muttered in the same breath as reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and others as early favorites to take home the statue.
Fast forward to October 5. Gurley had already amassed 773 yards and eight rushing touchdowns through five games, rapidly emerging as a Heisman frontrunner and a reason to keep eye on the Bulldogs in the subpar SEC East. Unfortunately, that hot start was just the calm before the storm.
Shortly after the Bulldogs’ week five victory over Vanderbilt, Gurley was suspended indefinitely by the University of Georgia, when substantial allegations broke that he accepted money for autographs and other memorabilia. The NCAA launched an investigation and found Gurley guilty, sentencing him to the standard suspension of 30% of his team’s games. The team appealed the suspension but was denied, which for Gurley meant sitting out the next four games, with sights set on returning to face Auburn on November 15.
Gurley’s draft stock was never questioned during this time period, with many NFL scouts and teams understanding that Gurley is not the first to violate this rule and won’t be the last. That, coupled with Gurley’s extremely large body of work gave NFL teams enough to see how electrifying he was on the field without questioning his character.
During that four game slate the Bulldogs won big at Missouri, escaped Arkansas, and lost to bitter rival Florida at home before traveling to Kentucky to reassert their position in the East division with a 63-31 win over the Wildcats in Lexington. Freshman Nick Chubb filled in nicely during Gurley’s absence, mustering an excellent 167 yards per game and five touchdowns rushing, adding another score receiving.
Gurley returned to his teammates and began practicing prior the Auburn matchup; Chubb had done well enough to keep the starting job for himself anywhere, but he recognized how valuable an asset Gurley was – that two heads are better than one.
“I know I haven’t taken his spot, I am looking forward to getting back on the field and playing with him,” Chubb said. “I miss him out there.”
Once the game finally kicked off, it became abundantly clear Georgia hadn’t missed a beat. The Bulldogs gave up a touchdown early in the first quarter, but those were the only points Auburn would put on the scoreboard all night.
Gurley rushed the ball 29 times in his return effort for 138 yards and a touchdown that came midway through the third quarter. Georgia was riding a 20 point lead as the clock hovered around five minutes remaining when Gurley went down with an apparent knee injury. He limped to the sideline under his own power before being carted into the locker room, and left the game without speaking to reporters invoking rumors for the worst.
The timetable for his recovery and the severity of the injury have not yet been disclosed. This is obviously awful news for the Bulldogs who are still in contention for a division title and a spot in the SEC Championship. Head coach Mark Richt will look to Chubb and Sony Michel to help carry the load in the Bulldogs’ potent ground attack.
Georgia faces Charleston Southern on November 22 before closing their regular season at home against in-state foe Georgia Tech on November 29.
*Section Photo credit to Scott Cunningham, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Daniel Shirey, USA Today Sports