October 12, 2014
Georgia head coach Mark Richt watches his team warmup before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
L.G. Patterson

ATLANTA (AP) The Georgia Bulldogs are hoping Todd Gurley can play again this season.

For one game, at least, they did just fine without him.

With props to freshman Nick Chubb and a suddenly stout defense, Georgia moved back into the Top 10 Sunday after its best showing of the season, a 34-0 blowout at Missouri.

Not bad with Gurley back home in Athens.

''For us to have that type of performance is pretty exciting for me,'' said coach Mark Richt, whose team moved up three spots from No. 13 in the latest Associated Press rankings.

But Richt got a bit testy when asked if he expected Gurley to play next Saturday at Arkansas.

''You know what I'd like to do?'' he told reporters Sunday on a conference call. ''I'd like to talk about this next game, or we might just end this thing. I do not know anything, so my answer is I do not know.''

Gurley has been suspended indefinitely while the school investigates possible violations of NCAA rules, depriving the Bulldogs of their best player and a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy.

But Chubb rushed for 143 yards on a staggering 38 carries - the most by a Georgia back in 13 years. The freshman also caught four passes for 31 yards, showing the Bulldogs have a pretty capable replacement should Gurley not return anytime soon.

''Coming in behind Todd made me a little nervous,'' Chubb said. ''But I've been playing football my whole life, so I just kept doing what I was doing. Everybody just told me that they believed in me and to play hard. It kind of just hit me in the face Thursday. We all got the news (about Gurley's suspension) at the same time.''

Georgia has not indicated when it will complete the investigation into Gurley, with athletic director Greg McGarity only saying it will be done ''as expeditiously as possible.'' He also said there is ''a lot of misinformation'' in reports about Gurley's alleged ties to a merchandise dealer.

For now, the 5-foot-10, 228-pound Chubb is the go-to guy for the offense. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back from all those carries, especially if he has to take on a similar load against the Razorbacks, who have come close to pulling off upsets against Texas A&M and Alabama.

''I feel pretty good right now,'' Chubb said immediately after the Missouri game. ''We'll see. I was ready for whatever they threw at me. You have to keep running your feet and go low so they can't hit you hard.''

With a passing game that has yet to show any sort of big-play potential, the Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) have little choice except to keep running the ball.

Unfortunately for Georgia, Gurley's suspension and a rash of injuries in the backfield have robbed the team of the depth it had at the beginning of the year. Another prized freshman, Sony Michel, is out with a shoulder injury. Keith Marshall has missed three straight games with a sprained ankle and knee.

Richt said Marshall may be able to play against Arkansas.

''I certainly hope so,'' the coach said. ''Just watching him run straight ahead last week, he looked really good. But I didn't see him change direction ... so I don't know if he was as close as he looked.''

Michel, who was injured two weeks ago in a victory over Tennessee, might be able to play as soon as the Nov. 1 game against Florida, according to Richt. The Bulldogs are off the week before their annual game in Jacksonville.

''We all think certainly before the season is over, he'll be back,'' the coach said.

Brendan Douglas was the only other player with significant carries against Missouri, running 13 times for 65 yards. The Bulldogs also have J.J. Green, who was second on the team with 384 yards rushing in 2013, but he's been playing defense this season.

Speaking of defense, the Bulldogs showed tremendous progress on that side of the ball. The Tigers managed only 147 total yards. Maty Mauk was intercepted four times. It was the first shutout of a ranked team on the road in Georgia history.

For all the turmoil swirling around the program, the Bulldogs are atop the SEC East and might even have a little room for error to reach the conference championship game, assuming they beat divisional foes Florida and Kentucky.

''It's where you want to be,'' Richt said. ''We need to appreciate that position we're in.''

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AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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