ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Todd Gurley returned with quite a splash, streaking the length of the field the first time he touched the ball.
He was a lot slower leaving Sanford Stadium, hobbling out with a sore left knee.
Gurley’s injury marred an otherwise brilliant performance by No. 16 Georgia, which unleashed a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield and dominated defensively to beat No. 9 Auburn 34-7 on Saturday.
Freshman Nick Chubb, who filled in so well while Gurley served a four-game suspension for violating NCAA rules, kept up his strong play with 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Gurley had a season-high 29 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown in his first game since Oct. 4, though his most spectacular play — a 105-yard kickoff return on Georgia’s opening possession — was wiped out by a penalty.
“Todd was back. You just give him the ball,” offensive guard Greg Pyke said. “Once he gets tired, Nick comes in. It’s amazing to have those two guys back there.”
Will it last? Gurley was injured with just over 5 minutes remaining on a 6-yard run, staying on the turf for several minutes while the trainers checked him out. He was able to limp to the sideline, where his knee was iced down. He headed to the locker room while Georgia was running out the clock and left the stadium on a cart without speaking to reporters.
Coach Mark Richt said he wasn’t sure about the extent of the injury.
“I think he’ll be all right,” Chubb said hopefully.
Georgia (8-2, 6-2, No. 15 CFP) was hoping to celebrate a division title, but Missouri prevented the Bulldogs from clinching the SEC East with a 34-27 victory over Texas A&M.
The Bulldogs have completed their conference schedule and now must hope Missouri loses one of its final two games, on the road at Tennessee or the regular-season finale at home against Arkansas. Missouri has lost only one conference game, a 34-0 loss to Georgia that gives the Bulldogs the tiebreaker edge.
Georgia dominated the latest edition in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry, handing the Tigers (7-3, 4-3, No. 9 CFP) their second straight loss and finishing off any hopes they had of repeating as Southeastern Conference champions.
Gurley returned after serving his NCAA-imposed penalty for taking more than $3,000 for autographs over a two-year period. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on the ball, persuading Richt to send him out for the kickoff return after Auburn scored on its opening possession for a 7-0 lead. He took the ball 5 yards deep in the end zone, burst through a hole and was gone down the sideline in front of the Georgia bench.
But the cheers turned to groans when everyone noticed a yellow glad back at the Georgia 32. A holding penalty on Ryne Rankin, who grabbed an Auburn player’s jersey, wiped out the long return.
It didn’t matter. Chubb broke off a 9-yard touchdown run that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good midway through the second quarter. Gurley strolled in for a 3-yard touchdown that stretched the margin to 24-7 in the third quarter.
On the very next play after Gurley was injured, Chubb capped the stunningly easy victory with an 11-yard touchdown run to cap a 98-yard drive.
Chubb went over 1,000 yards for the season, his best run coming when he sent Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy flying at the 10 with a huge hit, changed directions and scooted to the end zone for an apparent touchdown. It was overturned after the replay showed Chubb’s foot barely went out of bounds.
“That was an unbelievable run,” quarterback Hutson Mason said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t count. Still, that was some good eye candy for everybody to look at.”
Not to be overlooked was Georgia’s defense, which turned in a brilliant performance. Two weeks after giving up more than 400 yards rushing in an upset loss to Florida, the Bulldogs limited Marshall and Auburn’s fast-paced offense to its lowest-scoring performance in Gus Malzahn’s two years as coach.
“We didn’t get it done offensively,” Malzahn said. “They have a good defense, but at the same time we have high expectations that we can get it done.”
Malcolm Mitchell hauled in a 7-yard pass for Georgia’s opening touchdown, after Auburn marched down the field with ease the first time it had the ball. After converting three straight times on third down, the Tigers went ahead on Cameron Artis Payne’s 26-yard scoring run.
That was about it for Auburn, which was held to 292 yards and turned it over three times.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.