Nick Chubb and the number 13 Georgia Bulldogs were too much for the number 21 Louisville Cardinals in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the first ever meeting between the two programs Georgia took the trophy home with a 37-14 victory.
Chubb, a freshman running back for the Bulldogs, took home the MVP honors for the game with a Belk Bowl record 268 yards rushing on 33 carries, including two touchdowns (one from 31 yards out and one from eight). The rushing total was second all time in a single game in Georgia’s history behind Herschel Walker’s 282.
“I’m very excited, but it wouldn’t be possible without the rest of the team blocking and pushing and everyone doing their job,” Chubb said of his record setting performance. “I’ve done a lot in high school, but it’s a whole different animal up here. I’m very happy.”
“He’s just a really good running back. He’s hard to tackle and he’s got great vision,” Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino said of Chubb. “There were a number of times where we had guys there to make the play and he just made them miss or ran over them. It was a tremendous performance by him; they also have a great offensive front. They know what they are doing and they do a good job of sustaining their blocks.”
Chubb didn’t seem to ever go down on his first hit, and was able to create open fields for himself through breaking tackles.
“I can’t stress it enough, Nick Chubb is a good running back. He’s a back who likes to break tackles and be able to get yardage after contact,” senior defensive lineman Lorenzo Mauldin said of the freshman.
Leading up to the game, there was much speculation about which of Louisville’s two young quarterbacks, Kyle Bolin or Reggie Bonnafon, would get the start.
Bonnafon had more game experience, playing in nine of the 12 games for Louisville this year, but had been inconsistent for much of the year. Bolin, who was the third string quarterback at the beginning of the season, had only thrown seven passes prior to being forced into the Governor’s Cup against Kentucky after Bonnafon got hurt; but in that game he went 21-31 for 381 yards and three touchdowns.
Ultimately, Bolin got the start and ended with a stat line of 300 yards on 50% passing with a touchdown and two interceptions, but the numbers are misleading. Bolin, like the Cardinal offense for most of the game, was inconsistent and looked out of sync.
“No I didn’t get that feeling (that the moment was too big for him),” Petrino said of his young quarterback’s play. “I just felt like our inexperience showed up a little bit and they did a good job. They mixed things up on them; they changed coverages and changed blitzes.”
Bonnafon came in in the second quarter for two drives, the first of which produced one first down and a punt and the second of which ended in one play, an interception. He did not return the rest of the game.
“They both understood what the plan was going to be going in,” Petrino said of the switch to Reggie for two drives. “They were both going to play in the game, it just didn’t work out that way. It just didn’t work out the way we had liked to seen it work out. We had liked to see Reggie get moving and carry the ball a few times and run with it but we weren’t able to convert on third down and stay on the field.”
The inability to convert on third down, as well as the defensive’s inability to keep Georgia from converting third downs was a telling stat in the game, and led to some fatigue among the Cardinal’s defensive unit.
“Yeah, I think some of that is on the offense. Offensively you’ve got to stay out on the field and move the ball and get first downs and let the defense stay on the sidelines and get rest,” Petrino said. “We weren’t able to do that and obviously with a big, physical and experienced offensive line and then a great running back, it is going to take its toll if you are on the field too much.”
In the first quarter, the two teams seemed to be evenly matched. After a Louisville punt, Georgia drove down the field to score on a 44 yard touchdown pass from Hutson Mason to a wide open Chris Conley to put the Bulldogs up by seven early.
Louisville answered back with a touchdown drive of their own. The touchdown came on a one-handed catch by tight end Gerald Christian from an 11 yard strike from Bolin.
After that, it was all Georgia.
The Bulldogs put together 20 unanswered points to build a 27-7 lead that the Cardinals couldn’t overcome.
At the end of the first half, Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason left the game with vision issues and did not return, and that left the door open for running back Nick Chubb to take over the game, amassing 190 of his 268 yards in the second half.
UGA was able to capitalize on confusion in Louisville’s defense throughout the night by using a quick-tempo, hurry up offense at various times throughout the game. It allowed them to catch the defense off guard and out of position and led to several big plays in key moments.
“We didn’t expect those guys to play us up-tempo like they did,” senior defensive lineman Deiontrez Mount said of the different offensive looks. “All year they showed they’re a team that takes their time and they check with the coaches on the sideline. This game they didn’t really do that that much.
“It messes up the communication across the board. We’ve been fighting for something all week and we came into this and were not expecting the uphill both ways,” he added.
DeVante Parker, who only had three catches for 36 yards going into the half, put together a nice drive for the Cards in the third quarter that culminated in their other touchdown, a six yard Brandon Radcliff run. In that drive, Parker had four catches for 70 yards and finished with a total of eight catches for 120 yards, giving him 10 career 100 yard games and was the lone bright spot in an otherwise rough game for Card Nation.
Photos by Austin Lassell / The Louisville Cardinal