ATHENS — The Florida victory has proven even more costly than originally thought.
Georgia coach Mark Richt confirmed on Tuesday that junior tailback Richard Samuel, who starred in the fourth quarter of the Bulldogs’ 24-20 victory last Saturday in Jacksonville, will be out for the remained of the regular season with an ankle injury.
Samuel underwent surgery Tuesday morning to repair ligament damage in Samuel’s left ankle. Samuel injured the leg on the very last play of the game, a nine-yard run down to the Florida 1-yard line.
“We don’t know exactly when he’ll be back, but it obviously won’t be any time soon,” Richt said. “I would say a minimum of four weeks.”
Just four weeks remain in the regular season. Samuel could possibly be back for the SEC Championship or a bowl game.
“We think [the surgery] will allow us to accelerate his rehab,” Richt said. “The surgery, Ron [Courson] felt, was real profitable. It could have been a non-op, it was debatable. But again, this will stabilize it immediately and allow him to get stronger quicker.”
Samuel’s injury comes on the heels of perhaps his best individual performance in a game. Samuel finished with 58 yards on 17 carries. But of those carries came in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound junior is the Bulldogs’ No. 2 rusher for the season with 240 yards on 73 carries.
“Richard really had probably his finest performance in a really big game,” Richt said. “For it to happen on the last play was just sad for him. Just to read his comments about his goal of just wanting to help the team win, about how that’s why he moved to running back, because he thought he could help the team win. We feel like he’s been helping us win all along. But I think for him personally, he thought, ‘I finally made a significant contribution to this team in a big game and helped us win.’ So he reached that goal in this particular game and now he’s got to wait a little while to do it again. But I was just real pleased with his effort.”
Richt was pleased enough to name Samuel one of Georgia’s four captains for Saturday’s game against New Mexico State, along with center Ben Jones, defensive end DeAngelo Tyson and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. “He may just ‘crutch it’ on out there” for the coin flip,” Richt said.
Georgia also lost starting guard Dallas Lee to a broken leg in the Florida game. He, too, will be out the remainder of the season. Richt also said freshman wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) will remain sidelined this week
“We’ve lost some good players,” Richt said. “It’s sad for all of them really.”