Originally created 09/01/97

Edwards out again; Donnan optimistic

ATHENS, Ga. - History repeating itself.

How else to explain Georgia's situation today, with Robert Edwards once again sidelined with an injury, but the rest of the Bulldog backfield looking strong?

It's happened before, in 1995. Edwards was among the nation's rushing leaders after his five-touchdown performance against South Carolina, then was lost for the season in the following game. Of course, the running attack wasn't as solid after his injury, but Hines Ward, Torin Kirtsey, Robert Arnaud, and four fullbacks led by Larry Bowie picked up some slack.

Last year, Edwards played in all 11 games, but a myriad of injuries plagued him throughout the season, and he didn't rush for more than 100 yards after the Vanderbilt game at mid-season. But in his absence, Patrick Pass, Kirtsey and Odell Collins filled in ably, and Pass has blossomed into a nearly top-flight tailback.

Georgia is in those straits again, as Edwards rests a heavily swelled left ankle, which he sprained on the first series in Saturday's 38-7 win over Arkansas State.

"He has more swelling than we would like," said Georgia head coach Jim Donnan on Sunday. "Anytime you have a lot of swelling, it always bothers me, because that's just a real indicator that something's wrong. The soreness is so pronounced that it keeps him from putting pressure on his ankle.

"But it's not a serious situation where he's going to be out indefinitely. He's in a lot of pain and we've just got to be day-to-day on him. If we had a game this week, he couldn't play."

Time is the one luxury Edwards and the Bulldogs have this season, as opposed to the last two. Donnan said he thinks Edwards will take full advantage of the off week and hopefully be ready to go by the South Carolina game Sept. 13.

But the converted defensive back's latest injury has Bulldog fans talking. On the radio, the streets and the Internet on Saturday, many fans questioned Edwards' toughness, wondering why he seemed so injury-prone. Donnan dismissed those observations Sunday after seeing the tape of Edwards' injury.

"This is a freak thing here, it doesn't have anything to do with any toughness," Donnan said. "It could have been Batman or Superman or anybody, it would have been the same thing.

"I've never been around anybody that worked any harder than Robert or was as dedicated. Last year, he just had a couple of little things happen to him that there's no way he can help but get hurt. It doesn't have anything to do with a lack of durability.

"We just need everybody to focus in on the reality of football and understand that injuries are going to occur, and just enjoy watching the games."

Edwards has dominated South Carolina in his career, totaling 328 yards and five rushing touchdowns in just two games, but even if he isn't around on the 13th, the Bulldogs appear to be in good shape. Georgia's other backs, led by Olandis Gary (85 yards) and Pass (83 yards), had little trouble with Arkansas State's eight-man defensive front Saturday. Still, Donnan said, the Bulldogs had hoped to go with a two-back set featuring Pass and Edwards as often as possible, and the injury may force a reassessment of that plan.

"The only thing that worries me is that we really have a good two-pronged attack with those two guys in there that we haven't really worked on with anybody else," he said. "What we'll have to do is maybe use Gary in there with Pass some.

"Our style's not going to change any, regardless of who's in the game or who's not."


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