Georgia tailback Todd Gurley is out for the season after tearing his left knee this weekend, possibly ending his college career in a rocky year that began with Heisman Trophy hopes.
The school announced Sunday that Gurley had a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Surgery will be scheduled for the star, suspended by the NCAA for four games earlier this season.
"Sad news," coach Mark Richt said Sunday night.
Gurley was hurt in the final minutes of a 34-7 win over then-No. 9 Auburn on Saturday night. He ran for 138 yards and a touchdown, and helped the Bulldogs move up to ninth in the latest rankings.
Before the injury, Gurley passed Garrison Hearst for second place on Georgia's career list with 3,285 yards rushing. Herschel Walker has the record with 5,259 yards from 1980-82.
There has been much speculation Gurley, a junior, plans to enter the NFL draft following this season.
"Todd has been fantastic," Richt said. "Without a doubt one of the best running backs I've ever seen, ever coached. Practiced hard, played hard. Loved the big games and played his heart out for Georgia. I'm just really proud I had the opportunity to coach him."
Richt said he didn't know if the injury would affect Gurley's decision on the NFL draft.
Gurley made a brief reference to the injury on his Twitter account on Sunday.
"No Pain, No Gain" Gurley said.
Richt said it was difficult to tell how Gurley was dealing with the injury.
"You never know for sure what's going on inside but he seems to be handling it very well," Richt said.
Gurley was considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate before receiving a four-game NCAA suspension for taking $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. He returned from the suspension for Saturday's game.
Gurley opened Saturday night's game with a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but a holding penalty wiped out the play.
The junior was injured with just over 5 minutes remaining on a 6-yard run. He remained on the turf for several minutes while he was examined by trainers. He limped to the sideline, where his knee was iced down.
Wearing a hooded coat, he headed to the locker room while Georgia was running out the clock and left the stadium on a cart without speaking to reporters.
Richt said he had no thoughts about pulling Gurley out of the game before the injury.
"Not that drive," Richt said. "I mean, even a year ago we're down 21 in the fourth and come back," Richt said, referring to Georgia's 43-38 loss at Auburn in 2013. "They have an explosive offense and we were just trying to seal the deal."
The loss of Gurley leaves freshman Nick Chubb as Georgia's top running back. The Bulldogs play Charleston Southern this week before closing their regular season against Georgia Tech.
Georgia (8-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) would win the Eastern Division and advance to the SEC championship game if Missouri loses to Tennessee or Arkansas.
Chubb, who took over as the starter during Gurley's suspension, leads Georgia with 1,039 yards rushing. Chubb had 144 yards rushing with two touchdowns against Auburn, splitting the carries with Gurley in a powerful combination that wore down Auburn's defense.
Georgia could have more help at running back if freshman Sony Michel returns from an ankle injury this week. Keith Marshall has missed the last seven games with ankle and knee injuries and could be redshirted.
Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards with 17 touchdowns as a freshman in 2012 and added 989 yards with 10 touchdowns in 10 games in 2013. He had 911 yards rushing and nine touchdowns in six games this year.