ATHENS – Nick Chubb and Sony Michel walked into the office of Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney on Monday morning. Their reason for being there was fairly obvious.
“I asked him: Are we going to run the ball more?” Chubb said, recalling it on Wednesday. “What’s your plan?”
It was the first time this season that the two star tailbacks had gone to Chaney in that way. It came after Chubb got nine carries – none in the third quarter – and Michel just three in Georgia’s 24-10 loss.
It wasn’t a long meeting. It also wasn’t antagonistic. “(He begs us to come up there,” Chubb said. “We probably don’t go up there enough.”) And Chaney’s response to his concerned tailbacks was apparently satisfactory to Chubb.
“What he said was true: We just weren’t good at running the ball that game, and they kind of out-played us, so we had to try something new,” Chubb said.
This has been an up-and-down, mostly down, season for Chubb, who began it with the comeback performance (222 yards against North Carolina) that seemed to signal his Heisman campaign. But since then, other than a 121-yard game at South Carolina, it’s been a struggle.
Chubb’s yards-per-carry as a freshman: 7.1
As a sophomore: 8.1
This year: 4.8.
Michel, who missed the opener because of his broken arm but was at full strength for the third game, has also seen a drastic downturn: 4.7 yards per carry, down from 5.3 over his first two season.
Chubb and Michel, who are roommates and close friends, have talked it over a lot recently.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Chubb said. “I think (Michel) had two yards (against Florida.) He came to me and said, Man that ain’t ever gonna happen again. Two yards.’ And same for me, we kind of agreed upon that. So me and him personally made promises to get these guys going, and get things rolling.”
Earlier this week head coach Kirby Smart acknowledged that the team had to get the two tailbacks and their only playmakers the ball more. Isaiah McKenzie, the team’s leading receiver, didn’t have an offensive touch against Florida. Chubb and Michel had one catch each.
“I know (Chubb) is disappointed with where the statistics are for him,” Smart said. “It would be a lie to say that he’s not.”
Asked about that, Chubb said his disappointing more about not winning, but that his own season probably played into it as well.
“The beginning of the year we have a good win in Atlanta, we think things are going to be great, but they kind of went downhill,” Chubb said. “So it’s just kind of disappointing.”
The amount of runs for Chubb and Michel is one thing. But it’s also the choice of the running plays. Runs up the middle haven’t been working, especially with other teams stacking the box. Outside runs have been more successful.
Chubb was asked if they’re running the right plays for him and Michel. He hesitated a couple seconds and smiled.
“It doesn’t matter to me what kind of play it is. Just always to get out there and make something happen,” Chubb said. “But I do think we have maybe shied away from that (outside runs) for a little while, a little bit. But then again, you’ve got to go off what the defense gives you, and we thought that was the best fit for us the last game.”
The only thing Chubb can do now is try to finish strong. That starts Saturday against Kentucky (5-4), a team that while has momentum and is at home, only ranks ninth in the SEC in rushing defense. For contextual purposes, Kentucky ranks in between Vanderbilt (which held Chubb to 40 yards) and South Carolina (against whom Chubb rushed for 121 yards).
Chubb was asked if he expected to run the ball more on Saturday.
“Hopefully,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll get nine carries again.”