September 16, 2014

Georgia boasts one of the nation's most potent rushing attacks, but the Bulldogs abandoned it at a crucial time last week and the decision may have cost them a shot at the SEC title.

Moments after the painful loss, No. 13 Georgia had already shifted its attention to bouncing back Saturday against winless Troy.

Experts were ready to hand the Bulldogs (1-1) the SEC's Eastern Division and Todd Gurley the Heisman Trophy after the star running back rushed for 198 yards and scored four times in a season-opening 45-21 win over then-No. 16 Clemson.

With the game on the line last Saturday against then-No. 24 South Carolina, however, coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo didn't rely on Gurley and the running game.

On first-and-goal at the Gamecocks 4 with 5:24 left in a three-point game, instead of handing off to Gurley, quarterback Hutson Mason looked to pass and was called for intentional grounding to set the Bulldogs 10 yards back.

Gurley rushed for three yards on second down before Mason's third-down pass was tipped. Marshall Morgan, who earlier in the game hit his SEC-record 20th straight field goal, then was wide right on a 28-yard tying field goal as Georgia went on to lose 38-35.

The defeat dropped the Bulldogs seven spots in the AP poll and has them looking up at South Carolina in the East Division.

''Right now, I'm not focusing on the East, I'm focusing on Troy,'' Gurley said after rushing for 131 yards on 20 attempts. ''I don't care what South Carolina does, I don't care about nothing else but Troy right now. The East doesn't mean anything to me right now.''

The Bulldogs should be able to back bounce back and get their running game going against Troy (0-3).

The Trojans, coming off last Saturday's 38-35 loss to Abilene Christian, are allowing an average of 233.7 rushing yards.

Georgia should be close to full strength at running back despite freshman Nick Chubb having surgery Monday to repair a fractured left thumb. Richt said Tuesday he hasn't crossed Chubb off his list of running backs for Saturday.

''I don't know how much he will practice this week, but if he wakes up Saturday morning and feels good he'll remember how to run a sweep or a stretch or a zone play, so I wouldn't be shocked to see him play,'' Richt said.

Chubb is the Bulldogs' second-leading rusher behind Gurley with 104 yards on eight attempts. Though Gurley is the established star of the unit, Chubb and another freshman, Sony Michel, have helped provide enviable depth at tailback for Georgia, which averages 272.5 rushing yards.

There will be even more depth when Keith Marshall fully recovers from the right knee surgery which ended his 2013 season. Richt said he expects ''some nice runs'' this week from Marshall, who has only 10 yards through two games.

Marshall ran for 759 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman in 2012.

In the only other meeting between these programs, Troy lost 44-34 in 2007, when Knowshon Moreno was Georgia's star running back. Troy coach Larry Blakeney said Gurley is so good he should be compared with the Bulldogs' greatest back of all, Herschel Walker.

''I think Knowshon has proved his worth in the NFL, but this guy Gurley reminds me more of a guy nobody will forget at Georgia, and that's Herschel,'' Blakeney said Monday. ''I think he's in that class.''

The Trojans have been outscored by an average of 21.7 points in losing 12 straight to ranked opponents since a 24-14 home win over No. 19 Missouri in 2004. Eleven of those defeats came on the road.

Georgia is 36-1 at home against non-conference teams since Richt became coach in 2001.

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