CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When quarterback Hutson Mason went down with an injury in the second quarter, Georgia coach Mark Richt said the Bulldogs turned to plan B.
“Just give it to Nick,” Richt said with a wide smile.
Freshman Nick Chubb took over from there, running for a career-high 266 yards and two touchdowns as No. 13 Georgia defeated 20th-ranked Louisville 37-14 in the Belk Bowl on Tuesday night.
Chubb’s rushing total was second highest in school history, behind only Herschel Walker’s 283 yards rushing against Vanderbilt in 1980.
“That’s a blessing being in the same sentence with him,” Chubb said. “He’s a great running back. But I had an awesome line up front making everything possible for me. I’m thankful for everyone around me and it’s been a great season.”
With Chubb and four starting offensive linemen returning next season, the Georgia running game appears to be in good hands — even with Todd Gurley headed to the NFL.
Chubb finished his first season at Georgia by running for 1,323 yards and 12 touchdowns in last eight games after taking over as the primary ball carrier after the NCCA suspended Gurley for four games for taking $3,000 for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years. Gurley later sustained a season-ending knee injury in his first game back from the suspension.
Chubb averaged 8 yards per carry against Louisville and the Bulldogs (10-3) piled up 301 yards rushing against the nation’s second-best run defense.
“He showed everybody in the country that he’s a pretty talented kid, a tough kid,” Richt said.
He even impressed Louisville coach Bobby Petrino.
“He’s hard to tackle and has great vision,” Petrino said. “There were a number of times when we had guys there to make plays and he just ran over them. They also have a very good offensive line.”
Mason threw for 149 yards and a touchdown before leaving with blurred vision in the second quarter with the Bulldogs ahead 20-7. He was replaced by Brice Ramsey, whose primary duty was to hand the ball off to Chubb and watch him run.
Mason said after the game he didn’t have a concussion, but couldn’t see straight.
“Right now, I can look straight ahead and tell that, hey you have a blue scarf on,” Mason said to a reporter. “But beforehand, I couldn’t even tell you were right there. It was just super, super blurry. That’s dangerous when you’re out there and need your peripheral vision. The last thing I needed to do was go out there and take another shot, because my awareness wasn’t up to par.”
Georgia’s defense certainly contributed to the win.
They came up with three interceptions, two of those by Dominick Sanders.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Kyle Bolin made his first career start for Louisville (9-4) and finished 20 of 40 for 300 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown. Backup Reggie Bonnafon threw one interception in limited playing time.
Brandon Radcliff ran for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“Our young quarterbacks learned that when you call plays and nobody is open you have to throw the ball the away and move on to the next play,” Petrino said.
The Bulldogs leaned heavily on the 5-foot-10, 228-pound Chubb after Mason left the game and Ramsey was intercepted on his first play from scrimmage.
Louisville’s defense came into the game allowing just 93.7 yards per game on the ground. Chubb nearly had that in the first half, rushing for 78 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. He added an 82-yard run in the second half that led to another Georgia score.
Richt said Ramsey, who could be Georgia’s starting quarterback next season, made a few mistakes during the game but “overall he secured the ball well.”
The Bulldogs roared to a 20-7 lead in the first half as Mason found wide open flanker Chris Conley down the middle of the field for a 44-yard touchdown strike for a 7-0 lead. Chubb added a 31-yard scoring run.
The Bulldogs (10-3) made it a three-possession game late in the third quarter when Chubb broke free from his own 3 and raced 82 yards, setting up a 2-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel. Chubb later sealed the win with a 8-yard touchdown run.
Louisville’s only scores came on an 11-yard scoring strike from Bolin to Gerald Christian and a 6-yard run by Radcliff.
NOTES: Chubb set a new Belk Bowl rushing record, eclipsing the 174-yard effort set by Boston College’s Andrew Callender in 2004. … DeVante Parker lived up to his billing with eight catches for 120 yards for Louisville. … Conley led Georgia with four catches for 80 yards and the TD.
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