Back From Goat to Glory

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From Goat to Glory

By Matt Smith
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Chubb and Michel, who said no thanks to millions of dollars in an era where college athletes fully understand big business and capitalism, had reached the ultimate goal.

Sony Michel didn’t come back for his senior season at Georgia to have it end like that.

After a quarter-and-a-half of near-perfection saw the Bulldogs turn a 31-17 halftime deficit to Oklahoma in Monday’s Rose Bowl into a 38-31 lead, Georgia appeared on its way to its first national championship game appearance in 35 years. Michel had accounted for three of Georgia’s five touchdowns – two on the ground, and one on a short pass from quarterback Jake Fromm that Michel’s speed turned into a 13-yard score.

Two minutes later, Georgia’s 38-31 lead was a 45-38 deficit after a pair of Oklahoma touchdowns.

The first touchdown can be attributed to the wizardry of Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield. The second was more dramatic, as Michel lost the football on a hit by Sooners linebacker Caleb Kelly. Steven Parker scooped and scored, and after a quick Georgia three-and-out, Oklahoma was closing in on victory.

In a game we’ll be talking about for years to come, Michel was looking like the goat.

Nick Chubb wasn’t going to let that happen.

Michel wasn’t the only Georgia junior running back to spurn the NFL Draft last spring for one more chance at collegiate glory. Chubb did too, and Chubb refused to let his four-year teammate’s mistake decide the game.

After the stop of the season by the Bulldogs defense with Oklahoma attempting to run the clock out, Georgia marched 59 yards in seven plays, capped by Chubb’s two-yard touchdown run on a direct snap from center with under a minute to play to tie the game at 45-45. Another defensive stop sent the game to overtime – the first in a College Football Playoff or BCS National Championship Game since the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, when Ohio State upset Miami (FL) for the national title.

Special teams had been brilliant all night for Georgia, and it saved its best play for last. Lorenzo Carter leaped high enough to touch the tops of the nearby San Gabriel Mountain and swat Austin Seibert’s short field-goal attempt in the second overtime period, giving the ‘Dawgs the ball with a chance to win with any type of score.

About 45 minutes after his big blunder, Michel produced one of the most memorable plays in Georgia history, scampering nearly untouched on 2nd-and-12 from the 27-yard line into the end zone to end one of the greatest games in college football history.

Georgia was victorious, 54-48. Chubb and Michel, who said no thanks to millions of dollars in an era where college athletes fully understand big business and capitalism, had reached the ultimate goal. The Bulldogs will play in next Monday’s CFP National Championship Game just an hour down the road from the Georgia campus at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The Georgia ground game shredded Oklahoma’s defense all afternoon in Pasadena, as Chubb and Michel combined for 326 yards on just 25 carries. That’s a ridiculously efficient 13 yards per carry. Even crazier? 20 percent of those 25 carries (that’s five for you non-mathematicians) went for touchdowns.

They also made some national history in the game, as the duo passed SMU’s Eric Dickerson and Craig James for the most career yards by a duo in college football history, finishing the day with 8,284 career yards. The Pony Express closed their careers in 1982 with 8,193 yards.

Chubb and Michel will only expand their lead a week from Monday in their final game in the red and black. In an era where great running backs rarely play four years, their mark should stand for a long time.

A near-disaster became what might have been the best day of their lives for two special running backs. Georgia needed them both, to pick up its defense in the first half, and to pick each other up in the second half.

That’s what teammates do, and that’s why Chubb and Michel chose to be teammates for four years rather than three.

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.