Fisher's Injury Leaves Offensive Line in Limbo
COLUMBIA -- As Jarvis Jones and the Georgia Bulldogs terrorized Missouri's offense line in the second half Saturday, Elvis Fisher sat helplessly on the sidelines with crutches in both hands and a brace on his right knee.
When Jones intercepted James Franklin's ill-advised pass and barreled his way to Missouri's one-yard-line, Fisher sat motionless on the bench. And when the All-American forced a fumble on the next possession - once again deep in MU territory - Fisher had hardly moved an inch.
With two plays, the Tigers and their patchwork offensive line had fallen out of contention against the nation's seventh-ranked squad. As a once-promising SEC opener turned into a deflating 41-20 defeat for Missouri, Jones finished with eight tackles and a sack.
Fisher finished with an MCL injury and an uncertain future in his sixth season of eligibility.
"It's just heartbreaking," senior wide receiver T.J. Moe said.
Fisher, who missed last season with an ACL tear, crutched along the sidelines during the second half, rarely moving from a 15-foot radius near the benches. Numerous teammates and coaches consoled him throughout the game, and Fisher tried his best to flash a bright smile whenever he got the chance.
But after an entire year of rehabilitation, it was hard for Fisher to fake it.
"It's tough to watch," wide receiver L'Damian Washington said. "That guy last year, he battled to work his way back on the field. I have nothing but great things to say about Elvis."
Emotions aside, it's also a major problem from a logistical standpoint. When Fisher left Saturday's game in the second quarter, Pinkel inserted second-string center Brad McNulty and moved Mitch Morse to tackle. McNulty, a redshirt freshman, did not play last season, nor did freshman guard Evan Boehm, of course. Morse and guard Max Copeland also did not see much action in 2011.
"We became real young on the offensive line, real inexperienced... quick," Pinkel said.
Travis Ruth (torn tricep) and Jack Meiners (knee) were already sidelined with injuries, too. That left senior Justin Britt as the grizzled veteran.
"I felt like I stepped up and tried to lead those guys on the right path," Britt said. "It's adversity, you know? It's how you handle it."
No matter who lines up in the trenches this weekend against Arizona State, they'll need to find a way to run the football more effectively. Missouri averaged 2.6 yards per carry against the Bulldogs, and more than half of the Tigers' rushing yards came on two carries alone by Kendial Lawrence and Marcus Murphy in the second half.
It wasn't an easy task for a revamped line. Not against a disrupted 3-4 look from the Bulldogs.
"I give those guys full credit," Washington said of the offensive line. "They stepped in and did exactly what they had to do."