Georgia Football: Do The Bulldogs Have a Nick Chubb Problem?
I’m sure somebody will do a more thorough recap of the Mizzou game, but let me say this as a quick personal reflection: THAT WAS FUN! Say what you want about Missouri football (I don’t think the Tigers are very good) but as ugly as that game was it was infinitely more fun than last year’s squabble with the Tigers. Loved the defense making play-after-play-after-play-after-play-after-play; loved seeing Eason make a big time throw in a big time spot; loved watching Joystick on offense. Lots of fun there. But two things stood out:
- It shouldn’t take a good team 5 turnovers to beat this Missouri team. At least not normally. So either Georgia’s not yet a good team, or that wasn’t a great collective performance from a good team.
- It shouldn’t take 55 passes to beat anybody in Georgia’s offense.
That second question has me pretty rattled. Seriously, what’s up with the running game and Nick Chubb in particular?
Nineteen carries for 63 yards from Chubb is about as uninspiring as possible. But combine that tally with the following game situations and it makes even less sense:
- Georgia trailed 7-0 after the first drive.
- Georgia trailed 10-0 after 6:40 of game play.
- Georgia led for about six minutes mid-way through the second quarter and for about 4 minutes bookending halftime.
- Georgia trailed by six points for almost 30 minutes of play (27:25 if my math is right).
- Georgia didn’t reclaim the lead until less than 90 seconds remained.
While trailing for the vast majority of the ball game, one would assume that passing would be the conventional method of coming back (though the 55 attempts are still staggering). But shouldn’t such an emphasis on the passing game open up the run at least to some extent? Now, a team may not choose to spend a lot of time on the ground in such circumstances but right now I’m talking solely about the opportunity to have success when the ground path is selected. And yet despite that perceived opportunity, Chubb averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. And consider these specifics:
- Chubb picked up 3 yards or less on 12 of his 19 carries.
- He picked up more than 5 yards only twice in the game (his career average is about 7 YPC).
- His first and only run for more than 10 yards was on the last play of the third quarter.
And he actually carried the ball a lot, so it’s hard to make a case for “not getting going.” Excluding a one-carry game against Tennessee last year for all date moving forward, Chubb had averaged 18.1 carries per contest. He got 19 on Saturday. Nineteen carries is also right at his career median (nine games with fewer attempts, nine with more, a few with exactly 19).
From YPC perspective, this was the third-worst game of Chubb’s career. The two more lowly performances came as a backup in 2014 when he got just four and 11 carries against Troy and Tennessee respectively. Those were “didn’t get going” games.
Also of note: Chubb didn’t get the start. First play from scrimmage saw Sony Michel on the field; not Chubb.
Which brings up a broader theme here. Consider Chubb’s 3-game YPC average this season—it’s significantly lower than his career YPC measure. The chart below shows his career as measured by three games’ worth of YPC numbers (i.e. every carry and every yard for the most recent 3-game sample) and the black line represents his career average rushing average.
And consider those games and those opponents.
The North Carolina game was an admittedly-Chubb-like performance (32 carries, 222 yards). I’m not going to discount any yard gained by any running back, but if Chubb doesn’t spring for a 55-yard TD late in the game things look very different statistically. More importantly: this was a notoriously bad UNC rush defense. Illinois’ Ke’Shwan Vaughn ran for 116 yards on just 15 carries against the TarHeels. His other games this season: 17 carries for 49 yards against Murray State and eight carries for 22 yards against Western Michigan. James Madison’s Khalid Abdullah ran for 116 yards on 18 carries against UNC. He had more carries and fewer yards against Central Connecticut State and he had just 43 yards on nine carries against Morehead State. I think a lot of guys will have their best game of the year against the Heels.
Chubb had 20 carries for 80 yards against Nicholls. University of Incarnate Word (star???) Desmond Hite gained 104 yards on just six attempts against the Colonels in their only other game this year.
Statistically, Chubb’s game on Saturday would be the fourth-best against Missouri. Eastern Michigan’s Ian Eriksen ran 23 times for 90 yards. West Virginia’s Justin Crawford ran 21 times for 101 yards and Rushel Shell ran 16 times for 90 yards.
So is this a Chubb problem, an offensive line problem or a scheme problem? At this point, I’ll take the cop-out answer and say it’s a bit of all of them. This offensive line is downright infuriating. It hurts. And given that, an insistence on running the ball up the gut seems like a schematic misstep. But I don’t think we’re looking at Chubb 2.0 or even Chubb 1.0 yet. A smattering of reasons I suspect that:
- Eye Test: That “burst” isn’t there and he seems a bit impatient in the backfield.
- He’s had the lion’s share of carries this year (71 touches), but Brian Herrien, Isaiah McKenzie, Brendan Douglas and Terry Godwin have all accounted for higher YPC numbers. Further, five Bulldogs have tacked runs of 14+ yards. The line is (at least at times) opening gaps or holding blocks.
- If the offensive line sucks it’s at least an equal amount of suckage between run blocking and pass blocking. Eason was sacked four times and hit twice more on Saturday. For the season, UGA QBs have been sacked nine times in three games. So saying Georgia opted so heavily for the pass game (55 attempts is the third-highest total in Bulldog history and the highest since 2000) solely because of poor offensive line play seems like an odd assertion.
- Eason only averaged 5.6 yards per attempt on Saturday. A fully-functional Chubb gets that and more.
Obviously, my hope is that there’s not a problem at all. I guess we’ll find out on Saturday. But I don’t think Eason is ready to handle the whole show on the road at Ole Miss. I’m not sure that we can expect an 80-yard drive with every single yard coming through the air to close this one out. We need Chubb to be Chubb. Hopefully that’s not a problem.
That’s all I got/