Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) runs for yardage during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won 38-31. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Wade Payne
October 13, 2015

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia is clinging to slim hopes of winning the SEC East after falling out of the Top 25 with two straight losses and seeing star tailback Nick Chubb's season end with a knee injury.

Tight end Jeb Blazevich said Tuesday Chubb provides inspiration to salvage the season.

''We're going to miss him,'' Blazevich said. ''We understand we can't loaf, because how much would he like to be out there?''

Chubb suffered a season-ending left knee injury on the first play of last week's 38-31 loss at Tennessee.

Sony Michel, who filled in with 145 yards rushing, will start in Saturday night's game against Missouri. Keith Marshall will play behind Michel.

Georgia said Chubb damaged several ligaments and cartilage. He did not tear his anterior cruciate ligament. He will have surgery within two weeks, and a full recovery is expected.

Coach Mark Richt said Chubb is ''doing well'' and is ''in good spirits.'' Richt also passed along Chubb's thanks to ''everyone who has been reaching out to him and wishing him well.''

Chubb's injury ended his streak of 13 straight games with at least 100 yards rushing. He was the primary reason Georgia has the Southeastern Conference's No. 2 rushing offense.

Georgia doesn't believe defenses now will give less respect to its running game without Chubb.

''No, not with Sony and Keith,'' said wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

''I think if I said that I would not be giving Sony and Keith the credit they deserve as great backs.''

There will be an adjustment to Michel as the new lead back, though Richt said, ''We are not reinventing our playbook.''

Richt said Michel will be ''the primary guy'' but will be watched closely to see if he can handle as many carries as Chubb.

The coach added that Brendan Douglas and fullback Quayvon Hicks also may play behind Michel.

This isn't the first time Hicks has cross-trained at tailback. Richt said Hicks has ''pretty good running skills'' and is ''more proficient as a pass protector.''

A trusted pass-blocker could be especially important this week against Missouri, which leads the SEC in pass defense and is third with 18 sacks. Georgia quarterback Grayson Lambert needs good protection after failing to complete 50 percent of his pass attempts in the losses to Alabama and Tennessee.

Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC) can still win the SEC East if it wins out and another team beats Florida, which just had starting quarterback Will Grier suspended for one year Monday.

''I think that's in the back of everyone's mind,'' said linebacker Jake Ganus of the SEC East race. ''I think the real focus is just on ourselves. If we control what we can control, if we take care of our business and beat Missouri and just focus on one game at a time, I think good things are going to happen.''

There was much talk on Tuesday that the Bulldogs could regain their September form if they cut down on missed tackles and missed assignments on defense and were more efficient on third downs on offense.

Mitchell insisted he still believes in Georgia ''because I've been around a long time and I know what a good team looks like.

''We are a good team. We just have to execute and bring all the pieces together and get the job done.''

NOTES: Richt said WR Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring) is not expected to play this week. McKenzie also is one of the team's top return specialists. Richt said he is still deciding Michel's role on kickoff returns. ... Richt said he sent a text to Steve Spurrier, who retired as South Carolina's coach on Tuesday. ''I wish him and his family a wonderful retirement,'' Richt said. He said Spurrier ''was fun to compete against just because you never knew what was going to happen and what he might say.''

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AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org

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