Terps’ Gonnella a presence despite season-ending injury

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The sight of a teammate grappling with a severe injury was difficult enough Saturday for the Maryland football team.

That it happened to one of the toughest Terrapins was even more numbing.

Left guard Andrew Gonnella returned to Maryland on Monday after spending two nights in an Atlanta hospital. He suffered a dislocated left knee in a 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech and will miss the rest of the season.

“I remember looking into the middle of the field and seeing his knee, and I remember turning away and cringing because I’ve never seen anything like that,” defensive tackle A.J. Francis said. “I’ve seen Gonnella try to play a play in practice - an inside run - with no helmet because his helmet broke. He’s a tough guy. To see him on the ground screaming like that, it really got to me.”

Gonnella, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship before the 2009 season, made 26 starts (including 18 in a row) for Maryland. He said he is unsure when he will undergo surgery.

But there is some certainty: He intends to remain an active voice as the Terps (2-3, 1-1 ACC) venture deeper into the season, starting with Saturday’s game against No. 8 Clemson (6-0, 3-0), rather than mope about the fate of his final season.

“It’s just kind of who I am,” said Gonnella, who wore a brace on his left knee and spoke with reporters as crutches draped the seat next to him. “I’m not going to waste time crying, you know? It’s broken. It’s not going to fix itself tomorrow.”

Gonnella was injured in the fourth quarter, and the game stopped for nearly 15 minutes as medical personnel attended to him. Teammates prayed as Gonnella was treated and then placed into an ambulance.

Athletic director Kevin Anderson accompanied him to a hospital, and Gonnella said he did not sign a form authorizing doctors to sedate him and pop his knee back into place until after he learned the final score.

“It all happened so fast,” Gonnella said. “One moment I’m on the field and trying to pose a comeback here against Georgia Tech and the next minute I’m not really sure what’s going to happen with myself.”

Sophomore Pete White is expected to start in Gonnella’s stead Saturday. White played the final 13 snaps at left guard after Gonnella’s injury. He has one career start, filling in for an injured Justin Lewis at right guard in last year’s regular-season finale against N.C. State.

The loss of Gonnella leaves the Terps extremely inexperienced at guard. Josh Cary, a sophomore and former walk-on, has started the first five games this year after playing sparingly last fall. Among the backups, De’Onte Arnett is a converted defensive lineman who made the switch around this time last year, and Nate Clarke is a true freshman who has yet to take a snap.

“I believe in my teammates 100 percent and I believe in my team 100 percent. I think that we’ve yet to play to our ability,” Gonnella said. “I can’t wait and I’m excited to see the day we finally break out and show everyone who Maryland is and what we’re going to be. I think we’re going to reach some high points, and I can’t wait to see it happen. “

Coach Randy Edsall said Gonnella would attend the rest of Maryland’s games, and Gonnella said he would attend offensive line meetings and provide counsel on the bench as teammates come off the field.

As for the rest of the Terps, the loss of one of the team’s most respected workers still is sinking in.

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