A year ago, in this same city, in this same stadium, Nick Chubb stood in a painted concrete and cinder block hallway and rolled his hands into fists as he spoke. He exuded frustration. His jaw was stiff.
Two days later, Chubb and fellow-running back Sony Michel had a Monday morning meeting with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. They wanted the ball more. Georgia had rushed 19 times for 21 yards against Florida. The final score read 24-10, but the game was never that close.
In the same hallway on Saturday night, Michel smiled.
“A lot happier,” Michel said. “Right now, we're winning.”
Chubb and Michel led Georgia to a 42-7 victory over Florida here as Georgia improved to 8-0. It was Georgia’s largest win over the Gators since 1982, which was a 44-0 rout. Halfway through the first quarter, Georgia had 100 yards rushing.
“It says a lot about what our guys were able to do to improve,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “Says a lot that (teams) respect (quarterback Jake Fromm), and he makes them respect them with some throws. (I) feel like the wideouts are making some plays outside to loosen things up. All that — second year in a system, offensive line is getting some movement, good backs.”
At 24.5 points per game, Georgia’s scoring offense was 102nd in the country last season. Through eight games this year, the offense has averaged 38.1 points per game. With Georgia, the offense starts on the ground, and the increased production of the running backs has led to a higher-scoring offense. Fromm only attempted seven passes against Florida, but the offense scored five touchdowns.
Chubb, who had nine carries in this game last season, received the ball on three of Georgia’s first four plays. The third carry was a 6-yard score, his ninth rushing touchdown of the season.
Six minutes of game time later, Michel took a shotgun handoff for an inside run. There was a hole in the center of Florida’s defense by the time he reached the line of scrimmage. Seventy-four yards and 11 seconds later, Michel, who finished the game with 136 yards on six carries, gave Georgia a 21-0 lead. In the third quarter, he scored again on a 45-yard scamper.
“The offensive line, those guys were pissed every time we went three-and-out,” Michel said. “They knew what we were capable of doing. They stuck with the plan. Eventually it happened.”
Chubb and Michel combined for 214 yards and three touchdowns. They didn’t receive another carry after the start of the fourth quarter.
As Chubb and Michel rested on the sideline, freshman running back D’Andre Swift caught a 27-yard pass and sophomore running back Elijah Holyfield scored a 39-yard touchdown. Georgia finished with 292 yards rushing, its seventh game of the season with more than 200 yards on the ground.
“I think guys are playing for each other, pushing each other, keeping the circle tight,” Michel said. “Once you start playing for each other, you start having fun. You start winning.”
After Michel’s second touchdown, he jogged to the sideline bobbing his head. Once there, Chubb greeted him. They shook hands. Then the duo walked down the sideline, smiling and laughing, much happier than they were this time last year.