Thursday February 11th, 2016 8:30PM

Dogs counting on Gurley against Appalachian State

By The Associated Press
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ATHENS -- Georgia tailback Todd Gurley, who needed a break last week to make it through his return from an ankle injury, is expected to play against Appalachian State on Saturday.

Coach Mark Richt said Tuesday he has no thoughts of holding out Gurley to protect the tailback's status for Southeastern Conference games against Auburn and Kentucky the next two weeks.

After missing three games with a left ankle sprain, Gurley ran for 100 yards with a touchdown and added a 73-yard touchdown reception in the Bulldogs' 23-20 win over Florida last week.

Gurley was nauseated and spent time in the locker room in the first half and was limping after the game, but he practiced Monday and Tuesday.

"If he's healthy enough to play, he will, and we expect him to be healthy," Richt said. "... It's a game. Whoever our starters are, we're going to play them."

Georgia's offense also was boosted by the return of receiver Michael Bennett, who missed two games following arthroscopic knee surgery. Bennett led the Bulldogs with five catches for 59 yards.

The returns of Gurley and Bennett provided a much-needed lift for an offense that has lost tailback Keith Marshall and receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley to season-ending knee injuries.

Gurley struggled to remain in the game in the first half after scoring two first-quarter touchdowns. When he was limping after the game, there were concerns he might have re-injured the ankle.

Quarterback Aaron Murray said Gurley has made it clear he doesn't want to miss more games.

"He wants to play," Murray said Tuesday. "Todd is the type of guy, you don't want to say no. If Todd says `I want to go out there and play' you're going to say `OK, you go out there and play then.'"

Georgia (5-3, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) still has a chance to catch first-place Missouri in the Eastern Division.

"We want to be at full strength," Murray said. "We know we still have a lot of work to do in all facets of the game. ... We want to work at getting better. We don't want to regress at all and right now we need as many weapons as we can get to keep getting better."

Playing without Gurley and Bennett, Georgia lost back-to-back games against Missouri and Vanderbilt before beating Florida.

Gurley (6-1, 232) is the biggest difference-maker. He has 550 yards rushing and five touchdowns in five games. He had 1,385 yards rushing with 17 touchdowns as a freshman in 2012.

"He's everything you want in a running back when you talk about his size and what he can bring," Murray said.

Murray has been the constant for the offense, this season and through his career. He will be making his 50th career start.

Murray can add another SEC record to his resume on Saturday. He has 113 career touchdown passes, one behind the SEC record of 114 set by Florida's Danny Wuerffel from 1993-96. Murray also holds the SEC records for total offense and yards passing.

Georgia may have more help this week if receiver Chris Conley can return after missing the Florida game with a right ankle sprain. Conley leads Georgia with 30 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns.

From the perspective of Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield, Georgia has a wealth of talent on offense.

"It's going to be hard," Satterfield said Tuesday. "Georgia is extremely talented on offense.

"The thing they do so well, they're able to run the football and just when you try to load the box up, that's when they're able to throw it and make the big plays. It's going to be a huge challenge for us to try to slow those guys down."
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