ATHENS, Ga. — With starting tailback Todd Gurley sidelined, Keith Marshall was forced to carry the load in Georgia’s win over Louisiana State.
After Gurley sprained his ankle on a run late in the second quarter, Marshall was left to take the majority of Aaron Murray’s handoffs. He did his part, along with an aerial attack led by Murray and company. Wide receiver Chris Conley said Marshall’s play against LSU made a statement about his role on the team.
“It says that we’ve got two star players,” Conley said. “We have multiple stars in this offense and the great thing is a lot of those guys are patient and wait their turn.”
Marshall had 20 carries for 96 yards against LSU. While there were no true eye-catching runs from the sophomore, wide receiver Michael Bennett didn’t have any doubts about Marshall taking on Gurley’s role.
“When Todd went out, obviously it’s a big loss, but we’ve got so many other playmakers,” Bennett said. “Keith really stood up and had a huge game. It just kind of showed the depth of our team.”
Bennett also credited the offense’s success in Gurley’s absence to depth.
“We’re comfortable,” Bennett said. “I don’t think anyone got down because we knew we had playmakers right behind him.”
Marshall harbored taking on the role of playmaker, but said he expects to produce when he’s asked to in any situation.
“I enjoyed it,” Marshall said. “I didn’t really think about it too much. I just had to step up and that’s what I did.”
While Marshall had consistent runs and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, many others contributed to the late-game thriller against a conference foe.
“We had a good balance,” Conley said. “We felt like we could do things we wanted up front and LSU has a great defense. We couldn’t make mistakes, we couldn’t make penalties and we had to execute when we had opportunities.”
It took a lot of contribution from all around to make the win over LSU possible.
“I think we have a lot of playmakers and people stepped up, so that’s what’s supposed to happen,” Marshall said.
Conley was one of those playmakers. He had five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown, while Bennett hauled in three passes for 38 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With Murray’s four passing touchdowns, Georgia’s offense showed it could ramp up production in key moments.
“We want to step up the passing game in any situation,” Conley said. “Todd’s a great player for us and when he goes down it does make us think about what we do more, but we still think Keith’s a great back and Keith had some great runs today to keep this offense rolling.”
While Marshall was consistent, he just couldn’t quite seem to break off the big run. He was always one step away from leaving the Tiger defense in the dust.
“There was one I wish I could get back, but that’s just something I’ve got to keep working on,” Marshall said.
Georgia came away with the win, so Marshall won’t have to worry about getting that back. And Marshall said the senior quarterback is worthy of praise.
“He was very calm, poised and just took leadership of the huddle and the offense,” Marshall said. “That’s what helped us get our touchdown. With Aaron leading and the guys we have, I think we’re all very confident.”
Gurley’s sprained ankle will be assessed daily, coach Mark Richt said, so Marshall and a few younger players should expect to see an increase in reps this week in practice.
“He’s out. I don’t know how long, but Keith came in and played really good,” Richt said. “The other backs came in and did well. I think those guys are pretty capable. I have no idea with an ankle like that if Todd will play next week or not so those other boys will get some more reps I’m sure in practice.
Marshall isn’t nervous, though. He rarely seems to be, and didn’t get too excited about his play against LSU.
“You just play football and that’s why we came here,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t a big deal.”