ATHENS — Things looked bad enough for Georgia’s offense as the Bulldogs slumped to a 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday. One day later, the news got worse.
An MRI revealed that starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the second half of Saturday’s game, his first action in more than a year after tearing the same ligament during the preseason in 2008.
“Mentally would be the only thing that could keep him from making a full recovery,” head coach Mark Richt said. “If he rehabs the same way he did a year ago, he’ll be able to play again next year.”
The mental hurdle will be a huge one for Sturdivant, who worked to rehab a far more severe injury during the past year.
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Richt said he spoke with Sturdivant after the results of the MRI came back, and he said the lineman was stunned by the news, but remained upbeat.
“He’s probably a little bit surprised by it because he really didn’t feel like that was the situation after the ballgame, and we weren’t predicting that,” Richt said. “He seemed kind of more philosophical. He’s just like, ‘Well, I’ve got two choices. I can either give up or I can go fight again.’ He knows and we know that he’s going to fight and that he’ll be back.”
The loss is a particularly disheartening one for Georgia, which struggled to muster any significant offense after an opening touchdown drive against the Cowboys.
The Bulldogs were held to just three points — courtesy of a career-long field goal by Blair Walsh just three plays after Sturdivant left the game — after an impressive first drive.
Quarterback Joe Cox completed just 15-of-30 passes and turned the ball over twice, while the running game struggled outside of a few strong runs by sophomore Richard Samuel.
In all, Georgia mustered just 257 yards of offense in the game and turned the ball over three times, at least one of which — a fumble by Cox after being sacked — Richt attributed to the performance of the offensive line.
“It was hot and cold,” Richt said of the line’s performance. “It wasn’t flawless by any means. The sack that caused the fumble was a protection issue. Most of the time we protected well, but that time in particular it wasn’t very good.”
In addition to the two sacks Oklahoma State had in the game, Richt said the line failed to execute blocks long enough to open up sizeable holes for Samuel in the running game.
While the ground game wasn’t as concerning, Richt said, the lack of execution may have prevented Samuel from breaking a couple of long runs that may have made a difference in the complexion of the game.
“Their safeties tackled well, they closed space quickly, and there was a couple times when we just didn’t finish blocks,” Richt said. “Schematically we were creating good space, but if we’d have stuck on our blocks a little bit better, we might have broken some big runs.”
With Sturdivant out for the remainder of the season, Richt said senior Vince Vance likely will step in as the starting left tackle. Vance held down the role for three games last season before falling victim to an ACL injury of his own against Tennessee in October.
Although Vance performed acceptably finishing out the second half after Sturdivant’s injury, Richt said the Bulldogs could consider several other players for the left tackle job.
Clint Boling, who was the starting right tackle Saturday, served as Georgia’s left tackle down the stretch last season and was exceptional. Junior Josh Davis is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and may not be ready for a few more weeks, but he also has experience at left tackle.
“All three of those kids can play tackle, and Cordy (Glenn) can play tackle but would be more of a right tackle,” Richt said. “So we still have some options there.”
That’s the concern looking ahead, Richt said, but his thoughts Sunday were with Sturdivant.
Despite the setback, Richt said he assured Sturdivant that his future still remained bright.
“It’s just one piece of ligament that can be repaired, can be replaced, and then you just start over again,” Richt said. “Psychologically it’s tough, but physically I’ve had guys that had the injury a second time around and it went great the rest of their career. So it’s just going to be Trinton’s state of mind, but we know he’s going to battle and he has goals in his life, and he’s going to come back again.”