Georgia tailback Todd Gurley has come to grips with his sophomore season.
An ankle injury that sidelined him throughout October has resulted in productivity totals that will be noticeably lower than his freshman year, when Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has 903 yards and 10 rushing scores entering Wednesday's Gator Bowl against Nebraska.
"I don't dwell on it too much," Gurley said. "It is what it is. I missed some games, but I could have been out the whole year. I guess I'm lucky I was able to come back and still play."
When he's been available, he's been plenty effective.
Gurley's 6.3 yards per carry this season is slightly ahead of last season's 6.2-yard clip, and his 100.3 yards per game tops last year's 98.9-yard average. His 100.3-yard average becomes even more impressive given the fact Gurley missed more than a quarter of the Clemson opener after pulling a quad, more than half of the LSU game after injuring his ankle, and more than a quarter of the Florida game due to nausea that accompanied his return from injury.
The 6-foot-1, 232-pounder became a receiving threat this season with 344 yards and five touchdowns after compiling just 117 receiving yards last year, and his value was never more evident than in last month's 41-34 win at Georgia Tech in double overtime. Gurley accounted for all 50 of Georgia's yards during the two extra periods.
"He was out for a few games, but you saw at Tech how he can put the team on his back and carry us to victory," junior receiver Michael Bennett said. "He's unbelievable. He's been having to fight the soreness of that ankle injury, and hopefully he'll be completely healthy going into next year."
Said Gurley: "I hate overtime. I just wanted that game to be over with as soon as possible."
Gurley has averaged less than 15 carries per game since returning from his ankle injury as Bulldogs coaches have tried balancing his impact with keeping him healthy into the fourth quarter. His 20 carries at Georgia Tech were the highest since his return and the highest since a 30-carry, 132-yard effort in the second game against South Carolina.
His season-high of 154 yards occurred at Clemson, where he reeled off a 75-yard touchdown run on his first carry but pulled his quad on the same play.
"He's still not where he was the first time he galloped down the field at Clemson," Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt told reporters this past weekend. "Remember that vision and that look? I don't think he's there."
Gurley needs 97 yards against the Cornhuskers to notch a second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He rushed 23 times for 125 yards and a touchdown in last season's Capital One Bowl, when the Bulldogs beat Nebraska 45-31.
His season has mirrored Georgia's season when it comes to lofty expectations that got derailed by injuries, but he sees no point in reflecting.
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," Gurley said. "Nobody is going to look back in 10 years and say, 'That 2013 Georgia team had like 40 injuries.' We've just got to go out and keep winning and keep playing our hardest.
"That's part of football. You're going to be banged up, and you've got to fight through it."
Odds and ends
Inclement weather forced the Bulldogs to hold Sunday's two-hour practice, which was more of a walkthrough, at the team hotel. ... Richt told reporters that several players have battled a 24-hour bug, including Gurley, quarterback Hutson Mason and center David Andrews. ... Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo told reporters that sophomore tailback Keith Marshall (ACL) is on track to be available for the start of preseason camp next year.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.