ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s first touchdown of the season turned out to be costlier than anyone could have expected.
Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt announced Sunday evening that his team’s top receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, will miss the remainder of the season after injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while celebrating Todd Gurley’s 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Saturday night’s 38-35 loss to Clemson.
“Malcolm unfortunately has an ACL injury that needs to be repaired here,” Richt said, adding that Mitchell should be eligible for a medical redshirt after suffering the injury so early in the season. “I’m not sure when we’ll do the surgery, but sometime in the near future. So what we thought happened did happen. It was confirmed by the MRI today.”
Mitchell ran toward Gurley in the end zone after the touchdown and seemed to land awkwardly when he leaped to celebrate the score. Gurley also injured himself on the play, straining his quad muscle while completing the long run and missing the next 11:14 of regulation while team doctors tended to the injury.
Gurley returned to rush for 74 of his 154 yards in the second half, but Mitchell was not so fortunate. He sat on the bench with an ice bag on his knee for the rest of the first half. Richt confirmed after the game that he was worried Mitchell might have suffered a serious injury.
Tests on Sunday revealed his fears were justified.
“[Mitchell] actually hurt it in the exuberance of the first touchdown of the game for us when he went to congratulate his teammate,” Richt said. “I think he jumped up and chest bumped or whatever, and he landed in a bad way and that’s when he knew something had happened.”
Mitchell was Georgia’s leading returning receiver, having totaled 40 catches for 572 yards and four touchdowns last season. While Georgia enjoys admirable depth at receiver, Mitchell was perhaps the position group’s most dangerous playmaker.
“We’ve got other guys that have gone deep that can make plays for us, but Malcolm was certainly one guy that can do that,” Richt said. “He had great speed, quickness, he would snatch the ball in traffic. He was a great competitor.”
In Mitchell’s absence, sophomore Justin Scott-Wesley picked up some of the slack on Saturday. He registered a career-high four catches for 55 yards, including a pair of big catches — one to convert on fourth down — on a first-quarter touchdown drive.
Scott-Wesley also enjoyed a solid outing in Georgia’s Capital One Bowl win against Nebraska, when another Mitchell injury created the opportunity for him to make several big catches in his first significant playing time.
He said after the Clemson game that he hopes that trend will continue.
“I feel like I prepared myself for this moment back during January. And in the summer, I prepared myself for this moment, so I feel like when I had my opportunity and I had my number called, I made the best of it,” Scott-Wesley said.
Otherwise, Georgia has a number of capable receivers. That group includes Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, Rhett McGowan and Michael Bennett — who played in his first game since tearing his ACL at midseason last year and led Georgia’s wideouts with five catches for 60 yards while taking over Mitchell’s spot at split end against Clemson.
The Bulldogs should also benefit from Jonathon Rumph’s return to the lineup; the junior college transfer missed the Clemson game with a hamstring injury. Rumph was the No. 7 overall prospect and top receiver in ESPN’s Junior College 100 when he signed with the Bulldogs. He caught two touchdown passes in the Bulldogs’ spring game and was earning compliments from coaches on the progress he made during the offseason before injuring his hamstring.
Richt said Sunday that he did not believe Gurley had suffered a serious injury against Clemson, although director of sports medicine Ron Courson had not told him Gurley’s specific prognosis.
“I do not think after talking to Todd after the game that it’s anything that’s going to be serious at all,” Richt said. “You never know how a guy’s going to feel the next day, but I think Ron would have said something to me if he thought something was going on with Todd or with anyone else.”
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com