Georgia has had more than its share of adversity this season. One positive is that the Bulldogs have become pretty good at handling it.
It helps that they have Nick Chubb on their team.
That was the case again Tuesday night against Louisville in the Belk Bowl. Georgia lost its starting quarterback, its leading pass receiver and its starting strong safety to injuries within the first three quarters of the game. Yet somehow they managed to pull off their 10th victory of the season, 37-14 over the No. 21-ranked Cardinals.
Chubb picked up the slack like he has all season. The 5-foot-11, 228-pound freshman tailback from Cedartown piled up a career-high 266 yards rushing on 33 carries and scored two touchdowns. It was the second-best rushing effort by a Georgia back in school history, coming up short of the 283 yards Herschel Walker recorded against Vanderbilt as a freshman in 1980.
That Chubb and the Bulldogs did it against Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the Cardinals’ No. 3-ranked rush defense made it all the sweeter.
The win gave the Bulldogs 10 wins or more under Mark Richt for the ninth time in his 14 seasons as their head coach. Georgia’s seniors will leave with a 40-14 record.
Speaking of defense, it was Georgia’s that dominated the night. The Bulldogs had three interceptions — two by freshman safety Dominick Sanders — and held coach Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals to 18 points below their scoring average.
UGA quarterback Hutson Mason, the fifth-year senior, left the game suddenly and almost unnoticeably on the Bulldogs’ next-to-last possession of the first half. His absence was apparent only when redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey entered the game on the next series and promptly threw an interception.
Georgia originally announced that Mason might return with an undisclosed injury, but midway through the second half the school reported he would not return due to “vision issues.”
Sophomore safety Quincy Mauger suffered a concussion on a pass break-up late in the first half and did not return. Michael Bennett, a senior receiver, hurt his left knee early in the third quarter and also was lost for the game.
The Bulldogs looked to be in firm control after Sony Michel scored on a 3-yard run to put them ahead 27-7 with 5:41 remaining in the third quarter. Michel’s score came after Chubb’s 82-yard run on first down got Georgia off their own 3-yard line and put him over 100 yards for his eighth consecutive game.
But Louisville answered quickly. Brandon Radcliffe scored on a 6-yard run, but it was DeVante Parker that did all the work getting the Cardinals there. The senior receiver had a 21-yard catch and run on a tunnel screen on third-and-20 on the previous play.
But the Bulldogs continued to convert third downs — they were 12-and-18 on the night — and moving the chains to keep Louisville at bay. A 41-yard field goal by Marshall Morgan made it 30-16 with 5:25 to play, giving Georgia the cushion it needed.
But Chubb wasn’t finished. He had one more long run in him to get the Bulldogs into scoring position, then finished it off with an 8-yard scoring run.
Georgia led 20-7 at halftime and was probably a little disappointed to not be further ahead. Twice the Bulldogs took over deep in Louisville territory and they had only three points to show for it.
With 6:21 remaining in the half, safety Dominick Sanders leaped high to intercept a deep sideline pass for Louisville’s DeVante Parker and he returned it 40 yards to Louisville’s 10. But the Bulldogs managed just four more yards and had to settle for a 22-yard Morgan field goal and a 20-7 lead.
Georgia was presented with another good scoring opportunity after a Louisville fake punt failed and the Bulldogs’ took over at the Cardinals’ 31-yard line. But Ramsey entered the game and promptly tossed an interception when he threw deep for Malcolm Mitchell near the end zone.
Ramsey, a redshirt freshman from Kingsland, had seen limited action this season. Before Tuesday’s game, he’d appeared in seven contests and completed 20-of-30 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns and one interception.
Georgia had another missed opportunity when Michel returned a kickoff 99 yards for an apparent touchdown. Only it wasn’t. Kenneth Towns was flagged for an illegal block and the ball came all the way back to the 18-yard line.
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