Losing Todd Gurley to injury in their win against Auburn could prove costly for the Georgia Bulldogs moving forward.
Nov 15, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) breaks a tackle by Auburn Tigers linebacker Kris Frost (17) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Auburn 34-7. (Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
ATHENS, Ga., (C+P) — Todd Gurley finally returned to action for Georgia after being suspended for the previous four games. His presence seemed to spark the Bulldogs as they dominated Auburn 34-7. However, the victory came at a price as running back Todd Gurley suffered a torn ACL with just more than five minutes left in the game. This injury likely marks the end of Gurley’s career at Georgia, and as Auburn saw Saturday, the beginning of the Nick Chubb era.
The Bulldogs had no problem running the ball against the Tigers Saturday, racking up 289 yards rushing. Gurley picked up where he left up, gaining 138 yards and rushing for a touchdown on 29 carries. He also ran the opening kickoff back only to have it called back on a holding penalty. Even with Gurley’s solid performance, Nick Chubb stole the show.
Auburn had no answer for the freshman running back as he ran the ball 19 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 48 yards, including an electrifying 27-yard reception that was initially ruled a touchdown, but after a review marked down at the 11-yard line. This performance put Chubb over the 1,000-yard mark, making him the first freshman to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Gurley’s freshman year.
This type of production is nothing new for Chubb. The freshman has carried the ball 152 times for 1039 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He ranks 24th in the nation in both rushing yards and average yards per carry. Since Gurley’s suspension, Chubb has yet to rush for less than 140 yards in a game.
The silver lining for Bulldog fans is that while Gurley is done for the season, Chubb’s production appears as though it will continue. Also, his production should be easier to maintain as another freshman running back returns from injury for the Bulldogs.
Sony Michel should be completely recovered in time for Georgia’s next big game against rival Georgia Tech. Michel proved himself in the five games he played, rushing for 307 yards and four touchdowns on only 39 carries. If Michel can return completely healthy in time for Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs should be able to continue to use their two-back system successfully.
Gurley and Chubb stole most of the attention in the Auburn game, but the performance of Jeremy Pruitt’s defense may have been even more impressive. The Bulldogs’ defense had their best performance against one of the nation’s best offenses, holding the Tigers to only seven points.
Coming into Saturday, Auburn averaged running for 286.4 yards per game, which ranked eighth in the country. Georgia seemed to find a way to slow this rushing attack down as they held the Tigers to only 150 yards rushing. This marked only the second time all season that they ran for less than 200 yards in a game.
After allowing 632 yards rushing in their previous two games, this was a pleasant sight for Georgia fans. It will be crucial to maintain this type of success as a matchup with Georgia Tech awaits the Bulldogs in two weeks. It will be no easy task slowing down the Yellow Jackets as they rank fourth in the nation in average rush yards per game.
Also, if they manage to make it to the SEC Championship, a strong rush defense will be crucial to winning that game. Currently, the top two teams in the SEC West are Alabama and Mississippi State, who rank 37th and 20th in average rush yards per game respectively.
However, before Georgia can dream about a trip to the SEC Championship they need some help. Missouri currently sits atop the SEC East with a one-game lead over the Bulldogs, and they must win their remaining two games for a chance to go to Atlanta.
The trouble for Missouri is that these two games will be against Tennessee and Arkansas, both of which are coming off big wins. Last weekend the Volunteers dominated Kentucky in a 50-16 blowout. The Razorbacks notched a big as well, beating LSU 17-0. Both teams are capable of beating Missouri, and if they can do that, the Bulldogs will be on their way to the SEC Championship and maybe even the College Football Playoff.
Before any of that can happen though, Georgia must continue to take care of business and Missouri must lose one game. The next matchup for the Bulldogs should be a win as they take on Charleston Southern Saturday at home.