ATLANTA — Earlier this week, Georgia coach Kirby Smart was asked if Nick Chubb was on a “pitch count” for Saturday’s game. You know, being just 10 months removed from a major knee reconstruction.
After the junior tailback went for 222 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns against No. 22 North Carolina, Smart deadpanned, “Guess not, huh?”
“He did a great job,” Smart said after the Bulldogs’ 33-24 victory. “I think first you should give a lot of credit to Ron Courson (UGA’s director of sports medicine) and his staff because they really pushed Nick. And then, second, Nick Chubb is a really special person.”
That’s becoming increasingly apparent. Chubb went over the 200-yard mark for the third time in his career on a 55-yard touchdown run with 3:34 to go to salt away the victory. Only Herschel Walker – with nine – has had more 200-yard games in UGA history.
By halftime, Chubb had 20 carries for 118 yards and one TD. It marked his 14th career game with at least 100 yards, good for fourth in school history. He had a streak of 13 consecutive until he suffered the injury in October on the first offensive play from scrimmage at Tennessee.
Those are all impressive accomplishments from perfectly healthy backs. But as one surgeon said before Saturday’s game, the fact that Chubb has practiced full speed the entire month of August was a medical feat the likes of which has rarely been seen. The real test was going to be in an adrenalin-saturated contest against an equally charged opponent.
But, of course, Chubb sailed through that test as well.
“Ten months ago, I was injured. It was bad,” Chubb said in the postgame news conference. “I was down, in a lot of pain. I could have done two things: laid down and never got up, or what I did and pushed myself. I had support from everyone around me. And this game, I wasn’t out there by myself. There were a lot of other guys out there with me that allowed me to have this type of performance.”
It didn’t take long for Chubb to make an impact. On the Bulldogs’ second offensive possession against North Carolina on Saturday, Chubb scored on a 2-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 4:40 remaining in the first quarter. The applause from the partisan Georgia crowd was thunderous.
Chubb had 53 yards rushing on nine carries in the first quarter. By halftime he had 118. He was up to 143 midway through the third quarter.
“We feed off him,” junior flanker Isaiah McKenzie said. “If he has a big run, we feed off of it. It’s Nick Chubb, but he surprised me. I was surprised he came back like that. But I just love Nick Chubb. I love the way he plays.”
Chubb admitted to being slightly taken aback himself. He insists he didn’t have any sort of expectations or goals for Saturday night’s game other than to just do what his coaches asked of him.
Turns out Jim Chaney called his number 32 times.
“I didn’t come out here knowing what was going to happen or how the game was going to go personally for my leg,” he said. “I had already been through practice. I’ve practiced hard, been tackled in scrimmages, so I was prepared. … It was just a great outcome.”
Not if you were North Carolina. Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said there was nothing they could really do afterward but tip their caps to the 5-foot-10, 220-pound junior from Cedartown.
“He’s pretty good,” he said. “You know, there’s no doubt he’s really good. What (Jim) Chaney does with him is good. He’s got a good scheme, and their offensive line is doing a nice job. It doesn’t take much for that guy. He’s pretty special. There’s no doubt he’s one of the best in the country, and they’re going to keep feeding him.”
As for Chubb, he’s content to continue to eat, as long as that’s what his coaches want.
“He’s got great humility, a great family, and he works so hard,” Smart said. “Not many of you guys know what this guy went through, going out and doing Taekwondo at night, early mornings. There’s a reason he’s in the shape he’s in. It’s because of the way he works.”