They came back for moments like this. They could have left, gone to the NFL, got paid. But Nick Chubb and Sony Michel came back. For the confetti falling. For the tears of joy.
The senior running backs combined for six touchdowns and 326 rushing yards in Georgia’s 54-48 Rose Bowl victory on Monday. In the third quarter, they became the most prolific running back duo in college football history, passing SMU’s Eric Dickerson and Craig James for most rushing yards in a career by a pair of teammates. And, of course, one of them would score the game’s winning touchdown.
At the beginning of the afternoon, when the sun beat down on the mountains in the distance, Michel began what became a career-defining game. The first three times Michel touched the ball, he scored two touchdowns and gained 108 total yards. When Michel received the third of those touches, Georgia trailed 21-7.
Then, Michel took a handoff from quarterback Jake Fromm and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. Michel surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season with the carry, giving Georgia two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time. The other person? Chubb.
Chubb’s highlight of the game came early in the third quarter. Georgia trailed by two touchdowns. Then, like Michel had done earlier, Chubb scored on Georgia’s first play of a possession. At Oklahoma’s 44-yard line, Chubb broke two tackles. He ran the rest of the way for a 50-yard touchdown.
Fast forward 12 minutes of game time. Afternoon had become evening, and Georgia trailed by a touchdown. It was late in the third quarter. Michel saw something, a crease or a formation flaw, in Oklahoma’s defense.
Georgia’s defense, porous in the first half, had not let Oklahoma advance past midfield in the second half. Now, here was a chance to tie a game the Bulldogs had once trailed by as many as 17 points. Standing in the backfield, Michel frantically motioned to Fromm. Michel then shifted to Fromm’s left side.
Fromm took the snap and handed to Michel. An opening appeared in the right side of Oklahoma’s defense. A few seconds later, Michel scored. Tie game.
Georgia would score again. So would Oklahoma. With just under nine minutes remaining, Georgia’s offense took possession of the ball. Four plays later, Michel lost the ball. On a run to the outside, while fighting for more yardage, Michel fumbled. Oklahoma’s Steven Parker scooped up the ball and ran untouched to the end zone, giving Oklahoma a 45-38 lead.
Night time set in. Chubb would score with 55 seconds remaining in regulation and Georgia’s defense would force a punt, sending the game to overtime for the first time in Rose Bowl history.
After the teams exchanged field goals, Lorenzo Carter blocked Oklahoma’s field goal attempt. Two plays into Georgia’s possession of the second overtime, Michel took a handoff and scored, atoning for his earlier mistake. Michel finished the game with a career-high 181 yards and four touchdowns.
He was named the game’s offensive MVP. Chubb and Michel’s careers have been prolific. Individually, they accomplished a lot. Together, they did more. Their Georgia careers will continue. Now, with a national championship on the line.