Silence rang throughout Sanford Stadium with 25 seconds remaining in the first half when Georgia lost its top receiver to an injury. After completing a 30-yard pass to the outside, Lawrence Cager was hit and knocked down. Cager stayed on the ground for a prolonged period and was escorted to the bench shortly after.
Cager preceded his team into the locker room before halftime and was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury. The Bulldogs still defeated the Missouri Tigers 27-0.
But the injuries weren’t limited to just Cager. Center Trey Hill left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. In the third quarter, Cade Mays — who replaced Hill at center — joined Cager and Hill after being shaken up on a play.
The offensive line was already missing Justin Shaffer, who was sidelined against the Tigers with a neck injury. With the injuries piling up, Georgia’s offense was forced to rely on third string sophomore Jamaree Salyer at center.
The Bulldog offense passed for 122 total yards in the first half and Cager accounted for 93 of those yards. Cager also bailed out the offense on two big third down situations in the first half. On Georgia’s first drive, Cager reeled in a 32-yard catch on third-and-6 to set up the first touchdown. A couple drives later, a 16-yard pass on third-and-7 came Cager’s way.
James Coley’s offensive unit has presented a new look the past two games. Georgia rushed for just 42 yards in the first half against Missouri and Jake Fromm began to show more confidence in his decisions to put the ball in the air. Just as Fromm was getting into the groove, his go-to man left.
“He’s a really good playmaker for us and our offense,” Fromm said. “When he’s not out there things may be a little bit different but [I am] really hoping that he can be out there for us next week.”
In Cager's absence, freshman George Pickens stepped up for the receivers to snag Georgia’s only two touchdowns.
But Cager is still Georgia's top receiver. The graduate transfer has become a household name with a team-high 26 receptions for 377 yards entering the Missouri game. Cager also has four touchdowns in seven games played. He emerged as a leader in the wide receiver room and gave Fromm extra confidence. When in doubt, Cager was the clutch man.
Cager has been battling injuries to his rib cage and shoulder. He missed Georgia’s game against Kentucky after going down in the Bulldogs’ loss to South Carolina on Oct. 12. Cager joined the team again in Jacksonville, Florida. and caught seven passes for 132 yards.
Georgia will be affected by the loss of Cager, Hill and Mays if the three cannot get healthy in time for upcoming games against Auburn and Texas A&M.
“I think Cager will be fine,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He could have come back if he had to. The other guys I think are fine.”