One of several questions facing Georgia entering the season opener against Clemson was whether there would be enough room at tailback for talented freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to have much of an impact.
The Bulldogs made room.
Although starting tailback Todd Gurley punished the Tigers for 198 yards on 15 carries, Chubb and Michel inflicted plenty of damage as well, combining on 10 carries for 103 yards in Georgia's 45-21 win. Michel added three catches for 20 yards and had a pair of nice stops on special teams.
"That's what we wanted," Michel said after the game. "We wanted to have an impact. Our coaches have been stressing that we're not freshmen anymore and to just go out there and play football."
Michel had the more well-rounded evening, but Chubb provided the more memorable play, breaking multiple tackles on his way to a 47-yard touchdown run down the right sideline to make it 38-21 with 8:53 remaining. Chubb already was in first-down territory when he shook an ankle tackle by Tigers inside linebacker Stephone Anthony that left him without his left shoe for the rest of the run.
It was hard to notice until Chubb reached the end zone, turned to his teammates and slipped to the turf.
"I was determined to get in there, especially after my shoe came off," Chubb said. "It's a moment I've always been looking forward to. I was like, 'Dang, did that just happen?' My first reaction was to look back and see if there was a flag, and after I saw that there wasn't, I started celebrating."
Chubb's touchdown occurred on his second official carry, with his first run picking up 13 yards midway through the third quarter. His inaugural run came on a third-and-18 and would have come close to a first down had Chubb's helmet not been ripped off, which resulted in the play being ruled dead.
Gurley had his helmet ripped off in last season's win over South Carolina.
"Nick reminds me of Todd so much," quarterback Hutson Mason said. "He's so physical, and the thing I love about him is that he never lets one guy bring him down. It's pretty special to watch."
Chubb had four second-half carries for 70 yards, while Michel had six for 33. He made his introduction early. After the Bulldogs went three-and-out on their first possession, Collin Barber launched a 60-yard punt that Adam Humphries tried to return but lost 9 yards because of Michel's tackle.
After Georgia tied the game at 7, Michel struck again on the ensuing kickoff, stuffing T.J. Green at the Clemson 16-yard line.
"Coaches want all-around players, and I feel like everybody on this team is helping on special teams," Michel said. "Special teams had a big impact on this game."
Chubb and Michel wound up combining for 13 touches for 123 yards in their collegiate debut, with Michel providing his two positive field-position plays. Now they can move on with more confidence and knowing they will never have to deal with any more first-time jitters, not that they appeared to have any.
"It will be better for myself, having gotten the feel of this," Cedartown's Chubb said. "It's very different from where I came from. I think I'll be more comfortable next time."
Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt spoke to reporters after Tuesday's practice and gave his take on Saturday's triumph. The Bulldogs gave up 276 yards and 21 points in the first half but yielded just 15 yards and no points after intermission.
"The biggest thing is that you usually don't play as good as you think you did, and you don't play as bad as you think you did," Pruitt said. "That's probably the way it was in the first half. We didn't play as bad as it appeared. We didn't make some plays and Clemson did, so you have to give them credit.
"In the second half, we probably didn't play as good as you may think we did. Sometimes that's just the way the ball bounces. I did think we played with effort the entire game."
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo also spoke Tuesday and said there was an outside chance receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley could return for next week's game at South Carolina.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...