In his first game back from injury, the new-and-improved Nick Chubb looked just like the old Nick Chubb. The sophomore rushed 32 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns, including a 55-yarder with 3:24 left in the game to put No. 18 Georgia’s 33-24 Chick-fil-A win over No. 22 North Carolina away.
Chubb also opened the scoring with a two-yard plunge, and Georgia used another rushing score, this time a 19-yard burst from Brian Herrien, to take a 14-10 lead into the break.
But that halftime lead did not last long. Fourteen seconds, in fact. T.J. Logan raced the second half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and Logan later pushed the Tar Heels’ lead to 24-14 with a 21-yard dash with 6:34 to play in the third quarter.
True freshman Jacob Eason immediately answered. The five-star phenom piloted the Bulldogs on an 11-yard, 75-yard jaunt, which he capitalized with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie with 1:19 to play in the third quarter. Georgia (1-0) then received some help from North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora, who drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a 13-yard completion was negated by an ineligible receiver downfield penalty. Instead of enjoying a 1st-and-10 at their own 25, North Carolina faced a 2nd-and-18 from their own four-yard line where, oddly, they called a screen pass in their own end zone. It was swallowed up for a safety.
After the teams traded punts, the Eason-to-McKenzie connection again came up big for Georgia, this time a 51-yard rainbow on 3rd-and-5, setting up a William Ham go-ahead 29-yard field goal, the first of his career, with 5:27 to play.
North Carolina (0-1) went three-and-out on its next possession, cruelly losing a first down spot to a 3rd down incompletion overturn by the replay booth. Then it was Chubb time.
With 3:34 to play, Chubb raced from his own 45 to pay dirt, securing him a bit of catharsis and Kirby Smart his first win as Georgia’s coach.
Smart answered an off-season of quarterback uncertainty by alternating between Eason and Greyson Lambert. Lambert earned the start and completed 5-of-8 throws for 54 yards. Eason connected on 8-of-12 throws for 131 yards and a touchdown.
For North Carolina, Trubisky hit 24-of-40 throws, but for just 156 yards. The Heels were also out-rushed 289-159. The loss will continue questions of whether Fedora’s program, while established enough to beat the teams they’re supposed to beat, has progressed enough to compete with the upper-echelon programs in the sport. After starting 11-1 last season, the Heels have now lost three straight to Clemson, Baylor and Georgia.
Georgia’s win pushes the SEC to 7-1 all-time against the SEC in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff, and 15-4 in neutral site kickoff games since 2008.