Nick Chubb and Sony Michel walked into offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s office Monday morning hoping to make sense of what happened during Georgia’s 24-10 loss to Florida.
Chubb only got nine carries for 20 yards, and Michel was handed the ball three times for 2 yards.
Those aren’t the numbers the two star running backs are accustomed to.
Georgia has long been known as a downhill, physical run-first team. After a dominating performance against North Carolina in the season opener, which saw Georgia rush for 289 yards in a 33-24 win, the Bulldogs have been hit or miss in the ground game since.
With Chaney going away from running the ball against the Gators, Chubb and Michel met with Chaney to find out why and what the plan would be moving forward.
“I talked to Coach Chaney, but what he said was true,” Chubb said. “We weren’t good at running the ball that game. They outplayed us so we had to try something new.”
For the few 5- to 7-yard runs Chubb had, it seemed there were many more where he, or another ballcarrier, was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. That’s why Chaney switched it up in the second half and went predominantly with the pass.
Even so, Chubb said he asked Chaney if the run game would be a focal point moving forward. With a player as talented as Chubb, it would be wise in most situations to make the effort to get him more than nine carries in a game, even if the run game is struggling.
“I don’t think I’ll get nine carries again,” Chubb said in a joking tone.
The impromptu meeting the players had with Chaney lasted a few minutes and came with Chubb and Michel knowing Chaney has an open-door policy.
By the sound of it, Chubb and Michel wanted to make sure they would still be involved in the game plan moving forward. And Chubb noted Chaney prefers for players to approach him with questions when they have them.
“He begs us to come up there,” Chubb said. “I probably don’t go up there enough.”
After the loss, Chubb and Michel spoke with one another about how the game went. Out of the many inconsistencies this team has been through, running the ball never seemed like something that would be a struggle heading into the year.
Chubb ran for 747 yards and seven touchdowns before suffering a significant knee injury in 2015. Michel finished last season with 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, with the bulk of those numbers coming as a starter in relief of Chubb.
This season, Chubb has run for 606 yards and saw his average yards per carry drop nearly in half from his sophomore to junior seasons, from 8.1 to 4.8. Michel’s totaled 360 yards and a touchdown, with an average of 4.7 yards per carry.
The Florida game was a low point for a run game that was once feared throughout the SEC.
“It’s embarrassing,” Chubb said. “(Michel) had 2 yards. He came and told me and said, ‘Man, that ain’t never going to happen again — 2 yards.’ Same for me. We agreed upon that. We made promises to get these guys, to get things rolling.”
Chubb smiled a bit when asked if there were any different run calls that have previously worked that could be implemented more, such as running off tackle or spreading defenses out with the shotgun formation.
“It don’t matter what kind of play it is. I’m always ready to go out there and make something happen,” Chubb said. “I think we have maybe shied away from that a little bit. But then again, you have to go off what the defense gives you. We thought that was the best fit for us the last game.”
In games against North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina, the Georgia offensive line was able to create enough space for Chubb, Michel and Brian Herrien to churn out yards. Against Nicholls State, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Florida, those opportunities were limited severely.
Offensive guard Dyshon Sims said it’s been frustrating that the line hasn’t been able to spring the backs for the yards they’re accustomed to. Sims hopes to rectify that for Saturday’s game against Kentucky.
“We’ve been working all week, working on a whole bunch of plays and just trying to give those guys the ball and give them some confidence in practice,” Sims said. “I think it’s going to show in the game.”
Chubb was asked if the struggles he’s endured as a running back will have a factor on his end-of-season decision to go to the NFL or not. He replied that it won’t and that he’s taking that process “day by day.”
Chubb admitted that it’s been surprising to go through the kind of year this offense is experiencing, especially with how the year began at the Georgia Dome against North Carolina.
“In the beginning of the year we have a good win in Atlanta and think things are going to be great,” Chubb said. “And then things have gone downhill. It’s disappointing.”