ATHENS, Ga. -- Following a 38-35 season-opening loss to Clemson on Saturday evening, the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs must now turn their attention towards this Saturday's conference matchup with No. 7 South Carolina in Athens.
South Carolina enters the contest with a 1-0 record after posting a 27-10 win over ACC opponent North Carolina on Thursday evening in Columbia.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs will be without starting split end Malcolm Mitchell for the remainder of this season, as head coach Mark Richt announced on Sunday evening that the junior from Valdosta, Ga., suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the game against Clemson.
"Malcolm unfortunately has an ACL injury that needs to be repaired here," said Richt. "I'm not sure when we'll do the surgery, but it will be sometime in the near future. What we thought happened did happen. It was confirmed with an MRI today."
"We've got other guys that have gone deep and can make plays for us, but Malcolm was certainly one guy that could do that," continued Richt. "He had great speed, great quickness, and he could snatch the ball in traffic. He was a great competitor. I heard it in the exuberance of the first touchdown of the game when he went to congratulate his teammate and they chest-bumped, and he just landed in a bad way. That's when we knew something had happened."
Richt remains confident that Mitchell will be able to receive a medical redshirt for the season, due to the injury occurring in the opening game.
"When you have an injury like that which happens within the first four games of the year and it costs you the season, normally you can get a medical redshirt," said Richt. "I would think that he would still have two years of eligibility after this year after an appeal. I don't want to speak for the NCAA, but I think historically that's what is being done."
As the team moves forward without Mitchell's presence on offense, Richt noted the importance of figuring out the best way to shift the offense based upon Mitchell's absence.
"One thing we have to do is decide who we want to play at the X-receiver where Malcolm was," said Richt. "(Michael) Bennett did play the majority of the game at that position, and we just have to see if that's the best situation for Michael or for Georgia. We'll be trying to figure out what the best way is to line everyone up. Bennett played a lot of snaps at the X position at the split end position and did a good job, but we're just trying to figure out if that's the best for him and everyone else."
Richt was very complimentary of sophomore punter Collin Barber's play against Clemson, noting the importance of the long hang times and the fake punt that was successfully executed.
"Collin Barber played a really fine game," said Richt. "He kicked off well enough for us to get down there and cover. A couple of them, he knocked it out of the end zone. Punting, he did a beautiful job. He had great hang times, and I think every single one of them was a fair catch, and then he did a really nice job on the run on the fake punt."
After a tough road game in a hostile environment in Clemson, Richt looks forward to getting back Between the Hedges to take on the Gamecocks in front of a home crowd.
"I think we'll bounce back, and we'll be ready to play," said Richt. "We'll be excited about playing at home for the first time this year. I know our fans will be ready to support the team. To have our crowd behind us is a big lift for us. We know it's a big game, and our quest is to try to win the Southeastern Conference, and we haven't even played a conference game yet. We have a lot to play for."
Richt acknowledged the versatility of South Carolina's offense, particularly highlighting the quarterback and running back play.
"They look very big and physical up front," said Richt. "Their backs ran hard. I saw two running backs that looked like they had a really good ball game (against North Carolina). They just look very strong up front on both sides of the ball. Then when you have a quarterback that can run (the way South Carolina does), it causes trouble. There is a lot of designed quarterback running there. Stopping the run or at least slowing it down is going to be huge for us."
The Bulldogs own a 46-17-2 record against the Gamecocks, and while Georgia has won seven of the last 11 meetings, South Carolina has picked up the last three wins. In the storied series, 26 games have been decided by seven points or less.
Saturday's game is set for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff and will be broadcast on ESPN.
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