Gonnella used crutches to move and wore a stabilizing brace on his left leg. He said the injury has been classified as a dislocated knee, but he is undergoing further evaluation and surgery at a later date.
Gonnella’s upbeat mood masked the disappointment of seeing his season end so suddenly in the fourth quarter of Maryland’s 21-16 loss at Georgia Tech.
“It is literally the worst nightmare of every athlete,” said Gonnella, one of four team co-captains. “You put so much work in for the shortest amount of time of competition. To have it taken away from you, we always know how much football means to us, but when it is taken from you so quickly, you really know how much you love the game.”
One moment, Gonnella was blocking as the Terrapins continued to drive in hope of rallying against the Yellow Jackets. The next moment, a pile of players fell on the back of his leg. His massive body went in one direction; his leg went in the other.
“My first instinct was that maybe it would pop itself back in and I would just be sore,” he said. “But when I rolled over and saw it flop, I realized that bones were in two different directions and something was wrong.”
Gonnella initially wanted to remain on the sideline to root teammates on, but that was not an option. He lay near the middle of the football field for nearly 15 minutes as medical staff tended to him. Gonnella relayed a message to teammates through Coach Randy Edsall — finish the drive with a touchdown — and then was placed into an ambulance and brought to Grady Medical Center.
Once there, he refused to sign the anesthesia paperwork until he found out who won the game. Finally, Athletic Director Kevin Anderson, who was with Gonnella in the hospital, called the final score up on his phone.
“When I found out, I signed the form, they knocked me out and popped my knee back in,” Gonnella said.
The father of tight end Matt Furstenburg was among those with Gonnella in the hospital. Georgia Tech Coach Paul Johnson and some of the Yellow Jackets’ training staff also visited him. Gonnella spoke to Edsall twice, and several teammates also called him.
Gonnella, who didn’t return from Atlanta until Monday night, always imparted the same message: “Get ready to beat Clemson,” which will play Maryland on Saturday at Byrd Stadium.
While he won’t take part in practice or games, Gonnella will remain a team captain. He said he will continue to break down film with teammates. He added that he will not sulk and will implore teammates to maintain focus on their next game.
“You never know it will happen to you until it does,” Gonnella said. “I am not going to waste time crying. It is not going to fix itself tomorrow.”
Sophomore running back D.J. Adams, who scored 11 rushing touchdowns last season, had 12 carries for 64 yards and two touchdowns against West Virginia after being suspended for the season-opening game against Miami. But in the last three games, Adams has had just six carries for 12 yards and did not carry the ball against Georgia Tech.
When asked if the lack of carries can be attributed to a performance or behavior issue, Edsall said Tuesday: “It is just a decision we as coaches feel we have some other backs who deserve the carries that they are getting, based on performance on the field and based on our evaluation at the running back position.”
Edsall is not expected to name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Clemson until game time. Edsall declined to say when during the week he hopes to internally decide on a starting quarterback.
Starting quarterback Danny O’Brien was pulled in the second quarter Saturday in favor of backup C.J. Brown. Both quarterbacks struggled in the passing game, but Brown ran for 124 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown run.
Edsall said that offensive coordinator Gary Crowton in recent weeks has moved up to the booth rather than remain on the field during games because Edsall felt that being in the booth allowed Crowton to “see everything a bit better and take everything in and have a lot more room to himself.” . . .
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who suffered a strained hip injury against Boston College, said he expects to participate in practice this week and be ready to play Saturday against the Terrapins.