It was clearly an emotional ending for Georgia senior tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in Sanford Stadium as the Bulldog duo combined for 238 yards rushing and five touchdowns to power the 7th-ranked Bulldogs to a 42-13 rout of the Kentucky Wildcats.
Chubb, becoming the only Georgia back besides the great Herschel Walker to rush for 1,000 yards in three different seasons, galloped for 151 yards on 15 carries with scoring runs of 8 and 55 yards while Michel burst for 87 yards on 12 carries including touchdown jaunts of 37, 8 and 4 yards.
In compiling 504 yards of offense and limiting the Wildcats to 262 yards and just one touchdown and a pair of field goals, the Bulldogs boosted their season record to 10-1 and finished a final 7-1 in the SEC. The East Division champions now turn their thoughts to the regular season finale at Georgia Tech next Saturday before then heading into the SEC title game on Dec. 2 in Atlanta.
“It was great to come in here and win on senior night,” said a happy Chubb. “No matter how far along the road it goes, we won our last game at home and that’s something we will always remember. Coming back for us (Chubb, Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy) definitely paid off but we still have a long way to go, have to keep it rolling.”
Chubb said when he and Michel got up on the platform at game’s end, in front of the UGA student section to celebrate the victory, it was a first for him. “Believe it or not, it was the first time I’ve ever done that,” Chubb said, smiling. “I kind of saved it for this moment. Me and Sony agreed we’d go over there and do that if we won.”
Chubb said he and his teammates aren’t thinking about the SEC championship game at the moment, only the battle with the state rival Yellow Jackets coming up next weekend.
“We just keep taking one week at a time,” he said. “Next week is a big game for us but like I say, we take it one week at a time. It’s the next game up so it’s special but we look forward to playing those guys. They have a great football team and it will be a good game.”
Chubb said of his stirring 55-yard touchdown run in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter: “I mean it was great blocking on that run. I don’t think I got touched and I kind of hit the sideline wide open. It was great blocking up front.”
Chubb, whose 45 career touchdowns also rank him second to Walker’s 52 on the Bulldogs’ all-time list, said with the running game a bit sluggish in the first quarter, freshman Jake Fromm’s passing helped open things up for the Bulldogs’ offense.
“Kentucky has a great defense and they came out playing hard and fast, which we knew they would,” he said. “I think a little bit of everything kind of slowed them down some … Jake throwing the ball well and the linemen up front blocking well and our running backs then hitting the holes hard as we always do.”
“What a great way for these seniors to go out – winning the SEC East by going undefeated against the East,” said head coach Kirby Smart in his post-game press conference. “Our seniors have given us tremendous leadership, and I’m happy and proud of them. Our seniors have set the standard and our young players have bought in. It helps to have such great leadership.
“People don’t understand in the SEC, it’s a challenge every week,” Smart pointed out. “There are no easy games. No one can walk out and destroy a team in the first half. You just don’t do that.”
Smart said he was happy to see the Georgia run game finish strong after it sputtered a bit in the opening quarter.
“We want to be able to do that on a consistent basis,” he said. “We want to throw it too, but those 3- and 4-yard runs wear on people.”
The Georgia defense, again led Saturday by Roquan Smith’s nine tackles as well as Natrez Patrick’s seven stops and a key interception by senior Aaron Davis, must now get ready for Georgia Tech’s always-difficult-to-defend triple option offensive attack.
“Tech has a unique offense that you don’t get to play but once a year. It’s very different and you work on it and you try to simulate it but you can’t emulate it in practice as far as the speed they run it,” said Smart. “You have to do your job. And we need to do a good job of controlling the ball on offense. … Our scouts will have to be prepared this week to give us the best picture they can. We’ll have more time this week with no school,” said Smart. “We’ll meet with them and have walkthroughs and help them prepare. We’ll focus on giving thanks and on preparing for Tech.”
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops had much praise for the Bulldogs’ performance.
“They put pressure on us all night, in all phases,” Stoops said. “It’s a very physical team, it’s very well-coached, and they played like a No. 1 team in the country tonight. Chubb and Michel are exceptional backs, they really are. They’re real physical, and they keep you off balance. Dynamic play-makers outside. Really strong, and really good. I have a lot of respect for those two.”
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