Nick Chubb has returned, folks.
Almost 11 months removed from a devastating knee injury, Chubb totaled 222 yards and 2 touchdowns in No. 18 Georgia’s 33-24 win over No. 22 North Carolina in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. His second touchdown, a 55-yard run on a toss sweep with less than four minutes to go in the game, put the game away.
Chubb was not limited whatsoever. Georgia (1-0) rode the Cedartown native all game by giving him the rock 32 times. The Tar Heels (0-1) did their best to slow him down a little more in the second half before the game-breaking run late in the game.
Georgia relied heavily on its running game, totaling 295 yards. Freshman Brian Herrien saw extensive action in his season debut and totaled 59 rushing yards and a touchdown.
THREE WHO MATTERED
Chubb: The big question was whether Chubb would like the version of himself everyone was used to seeing. He was just that, if not more. Chubb was treated like the workhorse he can be, totaling 222 yards and 2 touchdowns on 32carries. The offensive line did an outstanding job up front, which helped Chubb and company have an outstanding game.
Eason: Eason didn’t start but he likely will from here on out. In the second half, with Georgia down 10, he helped engineer two drives to put the Bulldogs up by two with 5:27 left to play. Eason’s day ended with 131 yards and 1 touchdown.
North Carolina RB T.J. Logan: With all the focus entering this game on North Carolina running back Elijah Hood, it was Logan who offered the Tar Heels a huge spark throughout. Not only did he have 80 yards and a touchdown, Logan returned the opening kickoff of the second half 95 yards for a score. Logan’s speed hurt the Georgia defense, which had a hard time corralling him.
Receiver Isaiah McKenzie scored on a 17-yard shovel pass from Eason, which helped spark Georgia on both offense and defense. The Bulldogs followed up with a safety on the ensuing defensive possession, with Roquan Smith making a tackle in the end zone after DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle and Lorenzo Carter put pressure on quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Running game strong: Credit Georgia’s offensive line. It opened hole after hole for the Georgia running backs, which had a fine day. On Chubb’s long touchdown at the end of the game, the junior went untouched until he was almost brought down from behind.
QB debate could continue: It sure looked like after Eason led Georgia on a go-ahead field-goal drive that he’d stay in the game for the remainder of it. But Greyson Lambert did come back in, indicating that Eason doesn’t have the job yet. If Lambert would have struggled to put North Carolina away, a debate may have ensued. But he tossed the ball to Chubb on the drive’s lone play, which went for the long touchdown.
Safety dance: Smith read the screen play that ended up going for a safety, which cut North Carolina’s lead to 24-23 in the fourth quarter. It was actually a play North Carolina ran earlier in the game, which Smith saw while on the sideline. Afterward, Smith said he’d jump on the play if the Tar Heels came out in that particular formation. They did and Smith came up with a crucial play.
Secondary starters: 2015 starters Quincy Mauger and Rico McGraw did not begin the game or play that much throughout the game. Instead, graduate transfer Maurice Smith earned the start at nickel back and Aaron Davis started the game at strong safety. Mauger also saw limited minutes in the game.
McKenzie nearly matches 2015 season total: A year ago, McKenzie totaled 123 receiving yards on 10 catches in 13 games. On Saturday, McKenzie came up 1 yard short of matching that receiving mark. McKenzie finished the game with 6 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown, highlighted with a beautiful 51-yard catch down the right sideline from Eason.
Injury update: During the game, left guard Isaiah Wynn had to exit twice due to an injury. Both times he was able to return. Wynn started at left guard, with left tackle Tyler Catalina, center Brandon Kublanow, right guard Lamont Gaillard and right tackle Greg Pyke also starting on the offensive line. When Wynn was forced to leave the game, Dyshon Sims replaced him.
THEY SAID IT
Head coach Kirby Smart on Chubb’s game: “Somebody asked me if he was on a pitch count. I guess not, huh? He did a great job. I think first, you should give a lot of credit to (director of sports medicine) Ron Courson and his staff because they really pushed Nick. And then the second Nick Chubb is a special person. He’s got great humility, a great family and he works so hard.”
Chubb on returning from his injury: “I had a lot of support from everyone around me, and this game, I wasn’t out there by myself at all. There were all the other guys out there with me and allowed this type of performance. I’m just proud of everyone.”
Maurice Smith on Georgia’s win: “We proved that we can strive through adversity and deal with it. We’re a team that’s going to fight all the way to the end. The defense made a big statement today.”
Davin Bellamy on Georgia’s safety in the fourth quarter: “It was big for us. It swung the momentum. (Lorenzo Carter) forced the pressure and Roquan closed it out. On this defense, we all fly around and make plays. We just like to play ball.”
Georgia will face Nicholls State in its home opener next Saturday at Sanford Stadium. The game kicks off at noon.