The star tailback continued his surge in the pass game with five catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns against Kentucky. He is now the team’s sixth-leading receiver (308 yards) despite missing over a month due to an ankle injury. But he’s been most effective through the air since returning against Florida on Nov. 2.
“For real?” Gurley questioned when told he was among the team’s top ball catchers. “I’m going to have to get the boys for this. That’s good man, just to be able to do both – run and receive. That just gives defenses more trouble.”
The talented sophomore has caught 21 of his 26 total passes since running over the Gators, piling on 266 yards and three touchdowns in that span.
He said that enhancing his role in Georgia’s aerial attack was the biggest improvement he worked on this offseason.
“That’s one of the main things me and Aaron wanted to do,” Gurley said. “I’ve definitely been working on that a lot. Shoot, I might as well be a receiver now.”
Gurley also had 77 rush yards on eight carries.
Josh Harvey-Clemons rebounds
Josh Harvey-Clemons rebounded against Kentucky after the heartbreaking finish last weekend in Auburn.
The sophomore safety was on the losing end of the miraculous hail mary pass that secured the Tigers the win with just 25 seconds remaining.
On Saturday Harvey-Clemons recovered two fumbles, including one he forced.
“He’s kind of gotten a knack for getting the ball out these last couple games,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He also got one out at Auburn, but they didn’t give it to us. If he can continue to do those things for us, it’s going to be a plus."
It’s been an indifferent year for Harvey-Clemons, the first-year starter from Valdosta. He was named defensive MVP in spring practice but then suspended for the season-opener at Clemson for marijuana-related incident in a UGA dorm in May.
Grantham thinks that the character Harvey-Clemons has displayed will continue to carry over.
“Josh is a guy that I’m really proud of the way he works and prepares. He invests a lot in the gameplan like the other guys did. Really, it’s a credit to their character and resiliency that they came out with the effort and energy to win an SEC game. They knew what to do and how to do it and pretty much dominated, and Josh was a big part of that with his play and his production.”
Georgia knocking down QBs
Add Jalen Whitlow to the list of quarterbacks Georgia has sidelined this season.
Kentucky’s signal caller left the game in the first quarter after taking a hit from Georgia defensive end Garrison Smith. Whitlow fumbled on the play and positioned Georgia to recover and score on a Murray touchdown pass to Arthur Lynch just two plays later.
Kentucky officials said at halftime that Whitlow has a stinger and he never returned.
Georgia sidelined two SEC East quarterbacks earlier this year in Missouri’s James Franklin (shoulder) and Vanderbilt’s Austyn Carta-Samuels (leg).
Both left the game after each play and missed subsequent time in the weeks following. Carta-Samuels didn’t return until last weekend’s win over Kentucky and Franklin was reinstalled today against No. 24 Ole Miss.
With Murray’s right knee injury just before halftime, all seven starting SEC East quarterbacks have been sidelined at some point this year.
“It’s been one of those freaky years,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
Shuffling special teams
In another special teams shakeup, Georgia shuffled punters and gave Adam Erickson duties in the first half against Kentucky.
Erickson had just five punts for 186 yards (37.2 average) and one placekick coming into Saturday night’s game. He played high school ball at nearby Clarke Central.
Collin Barber has been the starter for the bulk of the season, though the sophomore had a rocky outing last week at Auburn, averaging just 38.2 yards on 29 attempts with a short of 23.
Barber and Erickson have been the only punters for Georgia this season.
Injury woes continue
Quarterback Aaron Murray left the game with a left knee injury just before halftime. Saturday’s game marked the seniors 52nd consecutive start.
“This team, we depend on him. He’s our leader,” Gurley said. “It just hit me that I might not be out on the field with him. A lot of us are going to have to step up.”
Defensive end Sterling Bailey (right ankle) and safety Tray Matthews (left hamstring) both left in the first half, though Matthews returned before the teams hit the locker room. Bailey was seen on crutches later in the game.
Bailey tore ligaments in the same leg during bowl practice in 2011 and was sidelined all the way to fall camp the next August.
Matthews injured the same hamstring in early October and missed the following four games before returning against Appalachian State two weeks ago.
“I just want to make sure I don’t mess [my hamstring] up again,” he said after the win over the Mountaineers.
Goldberg serves as Honorary UGA captain
Although the world at large perhaps best knows Bill Goldberg as a pro-wrestling champion from days gone by, between the hedges of Sanford Stadium he will be forever revered as a nasty defensive tackle who played during Vince Dooley’s final seasons as Georgia’s head coach.
Goldberg, who now lives in California, was back in town Saturday, serving as honorary captain for the coin toss before the Georgia-Kentucky game.
Although he’d been back in Athens earlier this fall to attend a memorial service for his friend and former UGA teammate Scott Adams, who died in mid-September, Goldberg said this was his first turn as an honorary captain.
“To be asked by Coach Richt to come back and be the honorary captain for this game is unbelievable,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been a captain. I haven’t really been here much at all. I live 2,300 miles away and I’m working a lot, and Hollywood tends to take a lot of your time. But this is home.”
Goldberg, who with his wife and son had lunch at Vince and Barbara Dooley’s house, admitted he was overwhelmed by the reception he received from Bulldog fans on Saturday.
“It’s hard to put into words how it feels to be back and show my wife and my boy what I grew up doing,” he said. “It’s invaluable. And to get the love from all these fans is something you can’t express – it’s just awesome.”
Previous honorary captains this season have been Arnold Harrison (Class of 2005), Richard Seymour (2001), Reggie Brown (2005), State Rep. Demetrius Douglas (1989), Will Jones (1987) and Jon Stinchcomb (2002).
— Chris Starrs