GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If there was a repellent to buy for the injury bug, Gators coach Will Muschamp would stock up.
Muschamp announced Monday that sophomore running back Matt Jones, who is averaging a team-high 67.8 yards per game, is out for the year with a knee injury.
Jones is scheduled to undergo surgery today to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee. Jones was hurt in Saturday’s 17-6 loss at LSU.
Jones carried four times for 17 yards Saturday on Florida’s first drive, a 14-play, 60-yard march that ended with a field goal. However, after a 3-yard run on first-and-10 at the LSU 36, Jones left the game and did not return.
He went to the locker room and briefly returned to the sideline in uniform, but by the second half, Jones was in his warm-up suit with his left knee heavily bandaged.
“When we (saw) him go down, it hurt the whole team,” said running back Mack Brown afterward. “We just knew we had to pick it up a little bit more at the running back position.”
The injury is the latest setback for the Gators and Jones.
A product of Armwood High near Tampa, Jones is the third starter in the past month to go down with a season-ending injury. Quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a broken fibula against Tennessee and three days later, defensive tackle Dominique Easley went down in practice with a season-ending knee injury.
The Gators also have lost offensive lineman Chaz Green (shoulder), receiver/return specialist Andre Debose (knee), linebacker Matt Rolin (knee), and defensive back Nick Washington (shoulder) to season-ending injuries.
All seven players figured prominently into Florida’s plans this season.
The knee injury ends what was a difficult season for Jones, who rushed for a career-high 176 yards in a 24-6 win at Kentucky, the most by a Gators running back since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
Jones contracted a serious viral infection right before fall camp opened and lost more than 10 pounds. He missed all of fall camp and Florida’s season-opening win over Toledo. In his first game back, Jones lost a fumble early in the Gators’ loss at Miami.
He finally had a breakout game at Kentucky and led the Gators in rushing the following week with 17 carries for 50 yards against Arkansas.
Jones was projected to be the Gators’ starting tailback after a solid freshman season backing up Mike Gillislee. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound Jones is a physical, between-the-tackles runner, a good receiver and pass blocker.
Jones finishes the season with 339 yards and two touchdowns in five games. In 17 career games, Jones has 614 yards on 132 rushes.
Brown, who is averaging 56.7 yards per game, and freshman Kelvin Taylor, coming off a 10-carry, 52-yard performance at LSU, are expected to get the bulk of the work in Jones’ absence. The Gators also have Valdez Showers and Mark Herndon on the depth chart.