Smith, Gibson, to have thumb surgeries Tuesday
Musa Smith (Photo: Dean Legge)
Musa Smith (Photo: Dean Legge)

Posted Oct 20, 2002


Saturday's win over Vanderbilt was far more costly for No. 5 Georgia than was known after the game.

Saturday's win over Vanderbilt was far more costly for No. 5 Georgia than was known after the game.

Coach Mark Richt said Sunday that tailback Musa Smith and receiver Fred Gibson each will have surgery to repair injured thumbs Tuesday and will miss this week's game at Kentucky.

Smith and Gibson combined for three touchdowns in the 48-17 win over Vanderbilt as Georgia moved to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference.

An already challenging visit to Kentucky (5-2 overall, 1-2 SEC) next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. looks more imposing without Smith, the team's leading rusher, and Gibson, the second-leading receiver.

Smith suffered a broken left thumb and Gibson suffered ligament damage to his left thumb in the win over Vanderbilt. Ligaments may take more time to heal, so Gibson may have a more difficult time than Smith returning for the Nov. 2 game against Florida.

The only certainty Sunday was that neither top player will be available against an explosive Kentucky team.

Meanwhile, offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb was listed as questionable for the Kentucky game with a sprained left knee. Stinchcomb may have cartilage damage, and Richt said it was not known Sunday if surgery would be needed.

"(Smith and Gibson) are two very productive offensive players and Stinchcomb, if he doesn't make it, is really the leader of our offense; he's been our captain just about every week,'' Richt said.

"It'll be tough, but people around them have to step up.''

Georgia can clinch a spot in the Dec. 7 SEC championship game if it beats Kentucky and Florida the next two weeks.

"I think we all know that, but we've just got to get the one win right now,'' Richt said. "It's going to be a tremendous challenge.''

Gibson suffered his injury blocking, when his thumb was caught in the ear hole of a Vanderbilt player's helmet. Smith apparently suffered his injury on one of his few plays in the third quarter.

Tony Milton will move up as the starting tailback this week, and true freshman Tyson Browning will be the top backup. Ronnie Powell, impressive at times in spring practice, will see more work at tailback this week.

Richt said again Sunday that there is no plan to use freshman Michael Cooper, who is targeted for a redshirt year.

Smith rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns and Gibson caught one 35-yard touchdown pass in the lopsided win over Vanderbilt. Smith ran especially strong considering a neck injury had made his status questionable until late last week.

Though Gibson is the second-leading receiver and top kickoff return specialist, he has not started the last two games. He came in the Vanderbilt game on the second play, however, and may have been close to reclaiming his starting spot.

Terrence Edwards, Damien Gary, Reggie Brown and Michael Johnson are established veterans at receiver, and Richt also has true freshmen Bryan McClendon and Mario Raley for depth at the position.

There is no such wealth of talent or experience at running back.

Milton had eight carries for 21 yards. The eight carries was his high for the season and his top rushing total was 28 yards against Alabama. Milton has not yet scored a touchdown.

Fullback J.T. Wall could see more carries in an attempt to take pressure off Milton.

After Stinchcomb left the Vanderbilt game in the first quarter, seniors Kareem Marshall and George Foster played the two tackle spots most of the rest of the game, though some backups saw playing time in the fourth quarter.

Georgia also was without cornerback Bruce Thornton against Vanderbilt due to an ankle injury, and defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan's playing time was limited by a sprained ankle. Richt said Thornton and Sullivan should be able to play against Kentucky.



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