Georgia's Nick Chubb steps up in Todd Gurley's absence

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Nick Chubb didn’t smile. He didn’t say a word. Georgia’s young running back stood by his coach at midfield and waited patiently for his turn in front of the television cameras.

After he did his duty and said his piece, he trotted off the field. Thirty-eight carries and four catches had drained him. It’s no wonder he didn’t show much emotion.

But before he could make it to the locker room and regroup, he passed a block of seats allocated to Georgia’s fans. He had to hear them chanting, “Chubb! Chubb! Chubb!” There was a woman holding up a pair of signs: One read “Used to be a Gurley girl,” and the other read, “Now I’m a Chubby girl.”

She might not be the only one jumping off the Todd Gurley bandwagon. With No. 13 Georgia’s star running back suspended indefinitely, Chubb made converts out of many during the Bulldogs' 34-0 beatdown of No. 23-ranked Missouri.

“For the pressure to be on him as a freshman, it’s unbelievable,” quarterback Hutson Mason said. “He’s special.”

If Chubb understands just how special he is, he’s not showing it.

Texting with Gurley Friday night, he had his doubts.

“I can’t do what you do,” he wrote to Gurley.

“Just be Nick Chubb,” Gurley responded.

As it turns out, that vote of confidence was all he needed.

With Gurley’s advice ringing in his ears -- I believe in you, keep running your feet -- Chubb carried the ball 38 times for 143 yards and a touchdown. For good measure, he caught four passes for 31 yards.

“Coming in behind Todd made me a little nervous,” Chubb said. “But I’ve been playing football my whole life, so I just kept doing what I’ve been doing.”

With Chubb punishing Missouri’s front seven and Mason picking apart the Tigers' secondary, Georgia played arguably its most complete game of the season. Its defense, which was criticized for its play against the pass in recent games, intercepted Maty Mauk four times.

It was a statement victory in the SEC East for a team facing very real questions without Gurley in the picture.

“A lot of people were saying the East’s wide open with Todd out,” Chubb said. “We came out and showed everyone we’re still in it.”

“Whether it was because of what happened earlier in the week or not, I don’t know that answer,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said, “but I am just proud of the effort everybody put in.”

No player better typified that effort than Chubb, who had never carried the ball more than 35 times in high school.

Coaches warned him before the game that he might get 45 touches, Chubb said, but he didn’t believe them.

“I thought they might be joking,” he said. “It turns out they weren’t joking at all.”

No one was.

Georgia (5-1, 3-1) is in the driver’s seat to win the SEC East in large part because of Chubb’s play.

Those chants and signs for him after the game were no laughing matter.

He may not be Todd Gurley yet, but Nick Chubb is awfully good on his own.