Kirby Smart can coach, Nick Chubb can still run and Jacob Eason can play a little quarterback. Those were just a few of the revelations as the No. 18-ranked Georgia Bulldogs opened the season with a hard-fought 33-24 win over No. 22 North Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
- Star of game: Many wondered if Chubb would be the same running back 10 months after major knee surgery. The junior from Cedartown answered that question with a rounding yes as he set a Chick-fil-A Kickoff rushing record with 222 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns. He almost brought down the house with a 55-yard TD run with 3:34 to play to shut the door on the pesky Tar Heels.
Nick Chubb is BACK. pic.twitter.com/t2Kfbt6ldY
— 120 Sports (@120Sports) September 4, 2016
- Turning Point: Georgia was trailing 24-23 with 7:55 to go in the fourth quarter when it faced third-and-5 deep in its own territory. The Bulldogs turned freshman quarterback Jacob Eason loose and he came through with a 51-yard completion to Isaiah McKenzie down the right sideline. That got Georgia to the UNC 21, where it eventually settled for a 29-yard field goal from William Ham and its first lead since the 14:46 mark of the third quarter.
- Question answered: Despite a little gamesmanship before the game, Sony Michel did not end up playing despite coming out for pregame warmups and taking handoffs and fielding kickoffs. The junior and leading rusher from last season has a broken left forearm from an ATV accident July 3.
- Question looming: Georgia’s quarterback competition likely will continue into the season’s second week. The Bulldogs played both senior Greyson Lambert and the freshman Eason. But it was Eason who was behind center as the Bulldogs rallied from two scores down in the second half. He was 8-of-12 passing for 131 yards and a touchdown. Lambert was 5-of-8 for 54 and no TDs.
- Statistically speaking: Not surprising considered the fast pace at which North Carolina plays, but the Bulldogs doubled the Tar Heels in time of possession 37 minutes to 23. The 295 yards rushing helped.
- What it means: The most important aspect of this game was it got the Smart era underway for Georgia. That the Bulldogs won was just a bonus. The bottom line was they played well against a ranked opponent and responded to adversity after getting down 10 points early in the second half.