Todd Gurley’s season – and presumably his college football career – ended Saturday night.
The star Georgia tailback suffered a torn ACL in his left knee late in the Bulldogs’ 34-7 victory over Auburn, the school confirmed Sunday after receiving results of an MRI exam.
Gurley responded by tweeting: “No Pain, No Gain….”
The news was expected. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported online late Saturday night that people familiar with the situation said Gurley had suffered a season-ending knee injury.
“It’s sad news,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday night.
The injury occured in Gurley’s first game back from a controversial four-game suspension for selling his autograph to memorabilia dealers in violation of NCAA rules.
A date for surgery has not yet been set, UGA said. ACL reconstruction surgery is common among football players, who typically are able to return to competition the next year.
Gurley, a junior, is eligible for the 2015 NFL draft. Even before the suspension and injury, it was considered a foregone conclusion he would skip his final season of college eligibility to turn pro. That isn’t expected to change, although the injury — unlike the suspension — figures to damage his stock with NFL teams to some degree.
Asked if he expects Gurley to still enter the draft, Richt said: “I don’t know that answer. I don’t want to speak for him.”
But later, when asked to describe what Gurley has meant to the Georgia program, Richt was reflective.
“Todd has been fantastic, without a doubt one of the best running backs I’ve ever seen or ever coached,” he said. “Practiced hard, played hard, loved the big games and played his heart out for Georgia. I’m just really proud that I had an opportunity to coach him.”
Gurley’s final play of the season was a six-yard run to the Auburn 11-yard line. The non-contact injury appeared to occur as he planted his left leg to make a cut. He grabbed for his knee as he went to the ground. TV cameras captured his wince.
Although Georgia led Auburn 27-7 when Gurley was injured with 5:21 remaining in the game, Richt said he and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo had not discussed removing the star tailback.
“Not that drive,” Richt said. “They have an explosive offense, and we just were trying to seal the deal.”
Earlier in the game, Gurley became the second leading rusher in UGA football history. He ran for 138 yards on 29 carries against Auburn, lifting his career rushing total to 3,285 yards. That surpassed Garrison Hearst’s 3,232 yards in 1990-92 and left Gurley behind only Herschel Walker’s 5,259 in 1980-82.
Gurley, considered the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy before his suspension, also ranks No. 2 in UGA history behind Walker in career touchdowns with 44.
The combination of the suspension and the injury means, however, that Gurley will play in only half of Georgia’s 12 regular-season games this year, as well as missing postseason play. He missed three games last season because of a high ankle sprain.
Georgia, which climbed to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll released Sunday, has two regular-season games remaining: Saturday against Charleston Southern and Nov. 29 against Georgia Tech, both in Athens. The Bulldogs (8-2, 6-2 SEC) will win the SEC East and play in the SEC Championship game if Missouri, the current division leader, loses one of its two remaining games: Saturday at Tennessee and Nov. 28 at home against Arkansas.
With Gurley gone, freshman Nick Chubb officially takes over as Georgia’s No. 1 tailback.
Chubb averaged 168 rushing yards per game during Gurley’s suspension, and against Auburn Chubb posted even better numbers than Gurley — 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Chubb surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season, becoming the 12th player in UGA history to rush for more than 1,000 in a season.
He was asked if his performance should provide the team comfort that its running game is in good shape even without Gurley.
“I’d rather have Todd,” Chubb replied. “He’s a game-changer. He’s a great player. He can break one at any moment.”