ATHENS - Besides getting out with a win, perhaps Georgia's most important task on Saturday was keeping Todd Gurley healthy, and getting him in shape for the critical game ahead.
The job was at least half accomplished, though questions still remain.
Gurley was not treated gingerly by his coaches on Saturday. He carried the ball 13 times, and caught three passes, and would have carried it more if the game had stayed close. In the postgame locker room, Gurley's ankle was not wrapped and did not require ice.
"It held up pretty good today," Gurley said.
But the star tailback did not have his normal explosiveness. His longest run was for just 10 yards, a week after he had a 73-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.
“He’s still limited," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I think as the game went on he seemed to get a little more loose. Maybe the cold weather (caused) a little more stiffness early on."
"I think Todd could probably do just about what we need him to do," head coach Mark Richt said. "I think it's fairly obvious he's not 100 percent. But he's able to play, he's been playing. I'm impressed with his toughness and his desire to help the team win."
Gurley, for his part, seemed to acknowledge he wasn't quite back to full health, saying: "Nobody's ever 100 percent." But that was also what he said before the ankle injury, when a nagging quad injury was his biggest worry.
As for his workload, Gurley said he could have carried it more if required. Last week he touched the ball 20 times, but had to leave for large stretches of the game because he was gassed. This week he was only rested in small spurts.
"I was playing this game like any other game. If I would've gotten touches it wouldn't have mattered to me," Gurley said. "Whatever helps the team win. But we opened up the pass game today, that worked pretty good."
Indeed, Richt opined that part of the reason Gurley didn't have a huge game was that Appalachian State centered on stopping the running back, opening up things for the pass.
"It wasn't like there were big gigantic holes, and all kind of space there," Richt said. "App State did a good job of packing the box a little bit. But in order to do that they played a lot of loose coverage on the outside, to where we were able to throw and get a high percentage of completions."
Georgia's other two tailbacks, Brendan Douglas and J.J. Green, only managed 18 yards on nine carries.
Georgia could have elected to sit Gurley, and avoid any risk of aggravating the ankle injury. Instead Bobo and Richt decided to focus on getting his conditioning back to par, with an eye on the Auburn game.
"We felt like he’s gotta work himself back into playing shape, and continue to play," Bobo said. "Quite frankly we need him on offense. We’re not near as explosive when he’s not in there. He gives us a lift. We felt he needed to play. It wouldn’t do us any good or him any good just sitting out and not giving us reps. Because it’s been awhile since he played.”
Gurley indicated it was a tough slog, but one he managed to get through unscathed.
"You know how it is with injuries, you just feel something and you've just gotta get warmed up," Gurley said. "You get going, and you'll still feel it, but you've gotta get going."