D'Andre Swift didn't look any different than he has after any game he has played for the Georgia Bulldogs these last three years. Well, maybe a little less weary than usual.
That's because the Bulldogs' star running back didn't play very much on Saturday. In the biggest, most important game of the season, Swift had two runs and three pass receptions for a total of 31 yards.
Of course, he hurt his shoulder last week against Georgia Tech. But coach Kirby Smart insisted Swift “seemed fine to me.”
Maybe so, but the Bulldogs didn't play Swift as though he were fine. They were radically conservative.
Swift said the plan was to keep him from taking many blows on his bruised left shoulder.
“I originally wasn't going to run up the middle unless I needed to,” said Swift, the Bulldogs' leading rusher this season with 1,216 yards. “Unless the game was tight and I needed to go back in there. So I just tried to get into space and make some plays and stuff like that.”
Swift had two carries from scrimmage, both of them to the outside on a quick-pitch-and-stretch play around right end. Two other plays were jet sweeps that counted as passes because the handoff was in front of quarterback Jake Fromm. Those and one flare pass added up to 18 yards.
Instead, senior Brian Herrien was the primary ball-carrier on a night the Bulldogs rushed for a season-low 61 yards. He had 24 yards on eight carries.
“We talked about the stuff we were going to do,” Herrien said. “We had a lot of different packages. It was just execution that kept it from happening.”
Georgia's offense was already playing shorthanded with receiver Lawrence Cager out with a fractured ankle and George Pickens suspended for the first half due to last week's ejection from the Tech game.
It quickly got worse.
Sophomore wideout/punt returner Dominick Blaylock went down with a knee injury late in the first quarter following an 11-yard catch for a first down and did not return. Also, flanker Kearis Jackson left the game with an ankle injury.
At the end of the second quarter, Georgia's worst nightmare seemed to become a reality. Fromm came up gimpy with a left-leg injury after being sacked by LSU's Grant Delpit. He had to come out of the game and backup Stetson Bennett finished the series.
Fromm returned on Georgia's next possession and finished the game.
“Over the years playing with Jake, he's always tough,” left tackle Andrew Thomas said. “He gets nicked up and bruised and takes hits, but he always comes back and plays with his heart and I appreciate it.”
The injuries weren't limited to offense. Outside linebacker Walter Grant left the game with a concussion, defensive lineman Jordan Davis aggravated an ankle injury, and nose guard Michael Barnett had to be helped off the field.
“A lot of our players went down today and that hurt, because we need those players,” Herrien said.
“It's something you can't control,” Cager said from the Bulldogs' locker room after the game. “Injuries are going to happen in a contact sport. You hope to stay away from them, but sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don't. Our guys are going to try to bounce back from them and be even better.”
How that is handled in the coming weeks will be interesting to follow. The Bulldogs have several juniors who are considering making the jump to the NFL and such prospects are increasingly inclined to skip bowl games that don't have national championship implications.
Swift was asked directly if was thinking about shutting down his college career to preserve his NFL stock.
“I'll think about that when it's time to think about that,” Swift said. “Right now I'm just thinking about my teammates. We just took a tough loss. I'm trying to help keep everybody's heads high.”
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