ATHENS -- Georgia has now survived two games in which its backfield was essentially gutted. It might have to try a third time next week against Georgia Tech.
Isaiah Crowell, the SEC’s third-leading rusher entering the weekend, only made it two carries before hurting his ankle Saturday. It was the fifth different injury for the freshman, who also missed another game because of a suspension.
Carlton Thomas, the team’s second-leading rusher, wasn’t available because of a suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Richard Samuel, who normally would be the top backup, has been out since foot surgery on Nov. 1.
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So on Saturday that left former walk-on Brandon Harton, a sophomore.
Despite being 5-foot-7, Harton, was a workhorse down the stretch, finishing with 23 rushes for 101 yards.
“Coming in I wasn’t expecting it, really,” Harton said. “But Isaiah went down, so the opportunity opened up, so I had confidence in myself, my teammates had confidence in me. So I just had to go out there and do my job.”
Thomas’ status for next week, or even on the team, is uncertain. Head coach Mark Richt couldn’t say after the game whether Thomas would be available next week.
Crowell’s injury will also be watched. While the Carver-Columbus graduate has lived up to his hype while on the field, he has now had five different afflictions this year: His ribs, wrist, hips, shin and now ankle.
Two weeks ago, when Crowell, Thomas and Ken Malcome were all suspended for a reported failed drug test, the team at least had advance warning. But on Saturday, Crowell’s injury forced the team to adjust.
“That really wasn’t in the plans for this game,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “So we had to go with the gameplan that we had and make some adjustments. Our defense was playing outstanding (Saturday), so we felt if we didn’t give them the ballgame we were gonna do enough to win, and this was one of those types of games that we had to play (Saturday).”
Walsh is back
Place-kicker Blair Walsh was supposed to be in a rotation with Brandon Bogotay for a third straight game. But after one kick each, Walsh got the job back. At least for this game.
The senior had been struggling, but he made all four of his attempts on Saturday -- three from 39 yards and another from 25. Bogotay missed his only attempt, although it was from 52 yards.
“It was nice to get some medium-range kicks in there and be dependable when your team needs you,” said Walsh, who has now made 17-of-27 attempts this season.
Richt decided in the second quarter to roll with Walsh on all further attempts. But he didn’t name Walsh the official first-teamer yet.
“By no means did I like try to manipulate anything to give Bogotay an opportunity (a few weeks ago),” Richt said. “I mean, I’d love for Walsh to be hitting them like he did his sophomore and junior season. I felt like we had reached the point where we had to do something. My thinking at that point was competition. It wasn’t to threaten anybody or anything like that.”
Walsh said he didn’t think losing his starting job had an effect on his kicking.
“I don’t think it really matters,” Walsh said. “He had to do what he had to do, and he made the call on that. I was just fortunate to kick the four ones I had (Saturday).”
Jones keeps up
Star outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was quiet for much of the game, then he exploded in the second half and finished with 2.5 sacks. That gives him 12.5 for the season, tying him with David Pollack for third on the program’s single-season list.
“He reminds me of guys I’ve been around in pro ball,” said Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who coached from 1999-2010 in the NFL. “He’s really a complete linebacker. He can do a lot of things. He’s a really young player. His biggest asset is he’s so relentless. He really enjoys playing. He really exemplifies the mental toughness of our defense.”
The nine-game winning streak is Georgia’s longest in one season since 1982, when it went 11-0 in the regular season. Quarterback Aaron Murray now has 28 touchdown passes this season, improving on his single-season record for Georgia, and also moved past Matt Stafford for third all-time, with 52.