NASHVILLE, Tenn. — First, the injuries started mounting up for the Georgia Bulldogs. Now the losses are, too, damaging any hopes of getting back to Atlanta for a third consecutive season.
At least the Bulldogs have a much-needed break in the schedule to rest up before the annual showdown against Florida.
“This is a much needed open date, we got to figure this out,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Do some soul searching and really figure out what we need to do individually and as a team to get better. There are still a lot of great games left, a big game versus Florida in a couple weeks. We got to put this one behind us, get back to work, find a way and ... just keep getting better.”
The Bulldogs survived their injuries in pulling out an overtime win at Tennessee.
Then they lost to Missouri and suffered two more injuries Saturday in a 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt that knocked Georgia out of the Top 25 on Sunday.
Receiver Chris Conley suffered an ankle injury on the final play and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons hurt his right foot in the second quarter and didn’t return.
“It’s tough, but we got to just keep grinding,” Murray said. “Like I said, our leaders really have to step up and make sure everyone stays focused, stays hungry and keeps working.”
It can’t help Murray that receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley both are gone for the season with torn ACLs, and Michael Bennett currently is dealing with his own injured knee. Running back Todd Gurley missed his third consecutive game with a sprained ankle.
That left J.J. Green and former Aquinas standout Brendan Douglas playing as freshmen. Both had stretches against Vanderbilt where they ran very well, but Douglas fumbled after a catch with 1:59 trying to get more yards.
Officials took out defensive end Ray Drew when they flagged him for targeting when he hit Austyn Carta-Samuels after the Vanderbilt quarterback threw a pass with 11:19 left in the second quarter. The play was reviewed and upheld, sending Drew to the locker room. He came in third in the SEC with five sacks in the previous three games.
Another targeting penalty kept alive Vanderbilt’s first TD drive in its comeback on fourth down. Ramik Wilson hit Vandy receiver Jonathan Krause with his shoulder on an incompletion on fourth-and-4. Review kept Wilson in the game, but the penalty stood for a first down.
“I’m ready to see how this officiating, this is going to go over this weekend,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.