OXFORD, Miss. — Probably the best news to come out of Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s postgame news conference Saturday was the fact that Nick Chubb wanted to come back and play in the second half of Georgia’s lopsided loss to Ole Miss.
The Bulldogs’ star tailback put a good scare into the fan base when he left the game late in the second quarter and did not return. He finished with 57 yards on 12 carries, his third consecutive game of 80 or fewer rushing yards.
Smart said he didn’t yet know the severity of the injury, but indicated Chubb wanted to come back and play in the second half. That’s at least some indication that it might not be too serious.
“If he could have come back, I know he wanted to,” Smart said following the 45-14 defeat. “So we’ll see how that goes the next couple days.”
Chubb ended up getting attended by trainers on the Georgia bench, but not in the medical tent, late in the second quarter. He did not return to the sideline at all in the second half, “because he was getting checked out,” Smart said.
It is conceivable that Georgia could have decided just to shut down Chubb for the day so he could go ahead and begin the rehabilitation and recovery process for Saturday’s game against Tennessee. The Bulldogs trailed 31-0 at the time of Chubb’s injury, which did not require treatment on the field.
While Chubb got hurt, the Bulldogs’ running game encountered some healing during the game, albeit only marginally. A week after rushing for only 101 yards as a team in last weekend’s 28-27 win over Missouri, Georgia’s backs managed 230 yards on the ground against Ole Miss.
That has to be tempered by the fact that 137 of those yards came in the second half when the outcome was essentially decided. Freshman tailback Brian Herrien led the Bulldogs with 78 yards on 11 carries, junior Sony Michel added 66 on 11 attempts and freshman Elijah Holyfield finally got some action and finished with 27 yards on four carries.
The Bulldogs averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a team after going for less than 4 yards an attempt in each of the previous two games.
“The run game took some steps today,” said Michel, who also had 39 yards receiving. “It takes time. Week in and week out we’ve just got to keep going into practice and work hard, and eventually it’s going to come.”
Overall, Georgia was much more balanced than it was the previous week. The Bulldogs attempted 44 runs and 37 passes. Against Missouri they had 55 passes to 38 runs and called 59 pass plays total.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball,” Smart said. “We can’t pass the ball every down and win games. We’ve got to be able to have balance. We’ve always prided ourselves on balance.”
It will obviously help if the Bulldogs have all their backs. Their hope is that Chubb will be able to return Saturday. If he does, he will face Tennessee less than a year after tearing three ligaments in his left knee on the first play of the game Oct. 10 in Knoxville.
“I hope he feels better,” junior flanker Isaiah McKenzie said. “We’re just all going to do our jobs the best that we can. So when he comes back we’ll be better than ever.”