CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The season began with Georgia’s hopes pinned to star tailback Todd Gurley. It ended with a huge game by his understudy, freshman Nick Chubb. Georgia’s ground game pounded Louisville, and the defense forced three turnovers in a 37-14 win Tuesday in the Belk Bowl.
How the game was won: Louisville stacked the box early in hopes of slowing down Chubb and Georgia's ground game, but really, the Cardinals had no answers. Chubb ran for 20 yards on his first carry, and the deluge continued from there. For the game, Georgia had eight plays of 19 yards or more, including runs of 20, 30, 31 and 82 yards by Chubb. Louisville might have kept the game close, but three turnovers and a handful of ugly throws that prevented big plays downfield from Kyle Bolin and Reggie Bonnafon killed the Cardinals’ momentum again and again. When Sony Michel rumbled into the end zone to put Georgia up 27-7 midway through the third quarter, the outcome was all but assured.
Game ball goes to: Chubb. Who else? The freshman tailback stepped in for Gurley earlier this year, and Georgia’s ground game didn’t miss a beat. With offensive coordinator Mike Bobo gone and starting QB Hutson Mason hurt, it was no surprise Chubb stepped up once again; he set a Georgia bowl game record for rushing yards. Chubb finished with 33 carries for 266 yards and two touchdowns. He demoralized Louisville’s defense again and again and totaled the second most rushing yards in a game by a Georgia back. For the game, UGA racked up 299 yards on the ground -- the most by any team against the Cardinals in more than six years.
What it means: For Georgia, it’s an optimistic conclusion to a season filled with some bitter disappointments. The late loss to South Carolina, the thumping at the hands of Florida and the stinging defeat to Georgia Tech -- not to mention the controversy surrounding Gurley -- still are likely to be the overwhelming memories of a season that started with high expectations. But the Belk Bowl performances by Chubb and Jeremy Pruitt’s defense offered a more palatable finish and some hope for next year. There’s still much for the Bulldogs to figure out -- from the vacant offensive coordinator job to the vacant QB position (Mason's a senior) -- but there is plenty of talent already in place on this roster. For Louisville, Year 1 under Bobby Petrino had its high points, but as DeVante Parker, Gerod Holliman and other stars depart, the real work is just beginning.
Best play: Chubb had plenty of them but perhaps none bigger than his 31-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter that put Georgia in control of the game 17-7. The Bulldogs didn't looked back from there.