KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Never mind the pursuit of Herschel Walker’s records. Now the Georgia Bulldogs just hope they get to see Nick Chubb play again this season.
After CBS Sports captured millions of viewers with the horrific leg injury Chubb suffered on the first play of the game against Tennessee on Saturday, there was concern whether the Bulldogs’ star tailback might ever run the football again. But comments by head coach Mark Richt in the wake of an excruciating 38-31 loss to the Vols offered a glimmer of hope.
“Nick getting hurt on play one was not exciting to see at all,” Richt said of the SEC’s second-leading rusher. “He was in pain, physical and mental, knowing that he wasn’t going to be able to finish this game. I really don’t know for sure, but I’m optimistic it won’t require surgery. But I can’t say that 100 percent.”
Chubb was hurt on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage, a 2-yard gain on a toss sweep around the left end to the Georgia 18. Chubb landed awkwardly on his left leg as he was knocked out of bounds by Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Mosely. Replays showed Chubb’s left leg giving way and bending backward grotesquely.
Doctors and trainers usually can assess an ACL or similarly serious knee injury on the sideline and certainly in the training room, where Chubb spent the rest of the first half. But Richt implied that it may have looked worse than it actually was.
“I just don’t want to give out too much information because I don’t know for sure,” Richt said. “But as of right now we’re still pretty hopeful that it won’t require surgery. But we’re not 100 percent of that yet. We’re going to get some confirmation of that tomorrow.”
Richt’s comments mesh with cryptic information coming from Chubb’s family. At one point during halftime, a member of Chubb’s family texted that Chubb’s knee was being iced and that he might be able to return for the game. But the 5-foot-10, 220-pound sophomore spent most of the second half on the sideline on crutches. He left the Bulldogs’ locker room with his left leg completely immobilized.
However long Chubb might be out, the Bulldogs are going to miss him. He had been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate before recently becoming overshadowed by Leonard Fournette’s incredible season. As it is, he leaves the field with 747 yards on the season, second in the SEC. He came into Saturday’s game tied with Walker for the school record for consecutive 100-yard games with 13.
Six games into his sophomore season, Chubb has gained 2,293 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. That ranks ninth all-time on Georgia’s list for career rushing yardage.
“You never want to see any of that stuff happen,” UGA quarterback Greyson Lambert said. “You never think about it, but he’s probably the least deserving person for something like that to happen to. It was tough but we obviously had 59 minutes and 30 seconds left in the ballgame. It’s a next-man-up mentality.”
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs had more than 59 minutes left to play. And they carried on quite well.
Sophomore Sony Michel filled in as the primary tailback for the rest of the night and finished with 145 yards on 22 carries and the Bulldogs rushed for 165 yards as a team.
“I talked to him a good bit on the sideline,” Michel said. “He was in good spirits. I just knew I had to go in there and kind of play his role and play the game for him. I’ve been preparing for this moment. He’s been preparing me for this moment. It’s time whether I’m ready or not.”
Said Richt: “We’ve got some other good backs. Sony stepped in and played pretty well. Keith Marshall got an opportunity to get in there and play some and played well. You’ve just got to keep playing ball. Everybody knows that. I don’t think anybody dropped their headset and said, ‘oh, well, the game’s over.’
“But everybody loves Nick Chubb. Everybody respects Nick Chubb. I’m sure the Bulldog Nation’s heart sunk when they saw him on the sideline like that. He’s a true warrior when it comes to playing football, and he’s one of the finest people we have on our team.”
St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley, who shared time in the backfield last season at Georgia, and Walker were among hundreds of notable sports personalities sent out tweets of concern for Chubb.
Prayers for my boy Chubb. SMH
— Todd Gurley II (@TG3II) October 10, 2015
Keep your head up @NickChubb21!!!
— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) October 10, 2015
Even Tennessee’s players expressed empathy for Chubb from the victorious locker room.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to him,” Vols quarterback Josh Dobbs said. “He’s a great player, he has done a lot for that program and we love watching him play. Our hearts and prayers go out to him, wish him a speedy recovery.
Here is the injury. WARNING: It is graphic.
The Nick Chubb leg injury: https://t.co/gucBt93UDV
— Ben Bolton (@BoltonSports) October 10, 2015
Check back for updates.