ATHENS, Ga. -- It was the perfect ending.
When Georgia Bulldog running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel thought about their final game at Sanford Stadium, they probably couldn't have imagined it playing out any better than it did against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday. After a slow start, the Bulldogs battled and defeated the Wildcats 42-13.
The win clinched a perfect home season for the Bulldogs, going 6-0. Plus, No. 7 Georgia defeated every SEC East opponent this season.
But it wasn't about any of that, not on this night when 93,000-plus packed into Sanford Stadium to bid a loud farewell to the two-back tandem of Chubb and Michel who combed for 238 yards and five touchdowns. And like they usually do, they celebrated together. They were together during the CBS postgame broadcast, and they decided together to celebrate with the student section as they applauded one last win between the hedges.
"We can always look back at this moment, our last game at Sanford Stadium, we can talk about how we did have good games and the O-line blocked well, our receivers blocked and they caught good passes," Chubb said.
"It’s a big accomplishment for this group," Michel said on finishing the season without a loss in the division. "Something we can talk about for the rest of our lives."
After an early Jake Fromm interception put the Wildcats in field goal range and helped Kentucky take a 3-0 lead, it was Chubb's 8-yard touchdown run that got the Bulldogs on the board. The offense really began to roll in the second quarter, and senior Javon Wims caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Fromm. Fromm's 17 touchdowns this season is the most by a freshman quarterback at Georgia.
In the second quarter, Michel got a delayed handoff and cut around the right edge to break free for a 37-yard touchdown run to help put the Bulldogs up by a couple of touchdowns. He would have two more before the night was over, and in the fourth, Chubb found a gap and Isaiah Wynn helped him with a great block so he could find the end zone for a 55-yard score. With the rush, Chubb went over the 1,000 rushing yards mark for the season. He tied Herschel Walker with three 1,000 rushing yard seasons. He also passed former back Todd Gurley to move up to No. 2 for the most career touchdowns at 45.
"Just to be in the same company has [Walker], he was probably the number one legend coming out of Georgia," Chubb said." So being in the same sentence as him is certainly a great accomplishment."
Both Chubb and Michel made difficult decisions at the end of last season to return for their senior seasons despite the fact both could have likely been drafted. But they were unsatisfied with how last season ended, especially after the loss to rival Georgia Tech, who the Dogs face next week for the regular season finale.
Michel was honest. Last week's disappointing loss to Auburn to surrender their No. 1 ranking and undefeated season put a wrench in their plans for perfection. But the Bulldogs didn't pout, and they focused on getting the sweep in the East.
Head coach Kirby Smart had a feeling that they would return and was glad they did, not just for the team's benefit, but for the benefit of their futures.
"I kind of expected most of those guys to stay. They needed to. They needed to develop and get better. And I think they’ve done that," Smart said. "I think more important than that, they have something now that they wouldn’t have had if they left then. Think about the taste in their mouth if they were sitting out there watching this team do this. Now we would have struggled without some of those guys."
Smart said he believes Chubb is underappreciated.
"I appreciate what he’s done in an era where rushing the ball is really hard. It’s gotten harder and harder," he said. "That’s pretty remarkable and did it alongside another back that’s nearly just as talented as he is."
There are still at least three games left for the senior tandem, and of course they hope they can help push Georgia back into the playoff conversation and into the national championship. But after this season comes to an end, there will be others that keep the legacy of Georgia as a great running back school living on.
Just like there were others after Walker, Terrell Davis, Knowshon Moreno, Todd Gurley and all the greats that have run the ball in Athens, there will be others. More likely by the names of Swift, Holyfield, and Herrien.
"I think the bar is only going to be raised for the future. I’m excited for this program," Michel said. "There are great things ahead."