Selfless Superstars Sony Michel and Nick Chubb Key Georgia's Title-Game Berth

Matt Hayes@matthayescfbSenior National College Football WriterJanuary 2, 2018

Georgia tailback Sony Michel (1) celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown in the second overtime period to give Georgia a 54-48 win over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif (AP Photo/Doug Benc)
Doug Benc/Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif. — This is the way it has been for the last four years now, side by side, together, moving forward.

No second-guessing, no what-ifs or what-could-bes.

"One more to go, baby," Sony Michel said to Nick Chubb, his arm around his Georgia backfield mate, yelling amid the din of the postgame celebration in the greatest Rose Bowl ever played. "We've got one more."

For the first time in their careers—which have been defined by a two-is-greater-than-one mentality—Sony Michel got his moment in Georgia's game for the ages, a double overtime victory over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Rose Bowl semifinal.

But you'd never know it.

"It's not about me, it's not about him," Michel said. "It's about what we can do together."

Their careers had to come this. They had to finish with a wild victory leading to a chance to play for it all against Alabama in an all-SEC final. One more game, one more moment together for the two tailbacks who have shared their careers at Georgia, shared valuable carries year after year and never complained about it.

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Nick Chubb #27 and Sony Michel #1 celebrate beating the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

So when it was all over, after Michel atoned for a critical fourth-quarter fumble returned for a touchdown with the game-winning touchdown run, it should come as no surprise how he responded to the biggest moment of his overlooked career.

"We finally get a chance to play for something big," Michel said.

All about team to the very end.

Yes, it's corny, contrived and hard to believe. Because in this age of me-first athletes, how in the world could a 5-star recruit be happy being the backup for another 5-star recruit his entire career?

How could he not want more, considering NFL scouts say Michel is the better prospect? He's faster, does more to make defenders miss and is a significant threat in pass situations.

How could he swallow his pride year after year, knowing he could simply transfer and carry the ball as often as he'd like?

Think about this: Michel had 222 total yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma—and touched the ball all of 15 times (11 carries, four catches).

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs to the end zone for a touchdown tying the game 31-31 in the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on Jan
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It raises the obvious question: What could he do as a featured back? How much more prolific could his college career have been were he a getting 20-25 carries per game?

"Who knows? But it doesn't matter right now. Right now is about what we can do together for Georgia," Michel said earlier this week in preparation for the biggest game at Georgia in nearly 40 years.

Is there any solace in knowing you've saved tread on your tires?

"That's what I'm told," Michel said. "But as a competitive athlete, you want the ball. I do, Nick does. We're a team, Nick and I. We've made it work."

It should come as no surprise then that there was some symmetry to the way Georgia won its biggest game since a freshman named Herschel Walker rumbled through college football and led the Dawgs to the 1980 national championship. Chubb scored the game-tying touchdown with 55 seconds to play in regulation on a single back sweep from the Wildcat formation.

Two overtimes later, Michel scored the game-winner on the identical play by burning around the left end, breaking through a hand tackle and cruising untouched right into a delirious end zone of red and black.

Five possessions earlier, he fumbled after getting hit and pinned on an outside zone play, and Oklahoma safety Steven Parker returned it 46 yards for a seven-point lead.

"I told Sony, 'Look, we got you. We're together,'" said Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. "You never walk away from a guy like that. He's always one play away from a huge play."

Maybe that's why he stayed in Athens all four years, why he shared carries with Chubb and never complained. Because no matter who plays in the Georgia backfield, there is one lingering reality: They're a play away.

Two home run hitters, two tailbacks who can change the course of a game with one carry. They combined for 367 yards and five touchdowns against Oklahoma, maximizing their carries and saving Georgia from what looked like an early blowout.

Among their measly 25 combined carries: touchdowns of 75, 38 and 27 yards from Michel, and of 50 and two yards from Chubb. They weren't just home runs, they were momentum-turning plays for Georgia, and momentum-draining plays for Oklahoma.

The Sooners couldn't pull away from Georgia—despite a 31-17 lead at halftime—because they couldn't stop Michel and Chubb. At one point in the third quarter, Michel and Chubb were averaging 16.5 yards per carry.

"We were just turning and handing it to them, and saying, 'Go get it,'" Georgia guard Kendall Baker said. "You make your block, look up and there they go into the secondary. It's a beautiful thing, man. Sometimes, I don't even know which one it is carrying it until I see the defense trying to run them down."

No second-guessing, no what-ifs or what-could-bes.

Side by side, together, moving forward into the CFP National Championship Game.

"One last game together," Chubb said in a wild locker room after the game. "One more chance for us."

To the very end.


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