Georgia coach Kirby Smart has maintained the composure of a veteran throughout the offseason, into media days and fall camp. Smart's first head coaching gig has brought him onto a stage that was mostly foreign during his stint as a Nick Saban assistant, but all signs from the intangibles pointed to him being ready for the moment.
Then on Saturday when the moment arrived, things got tight for Kirby Smart.
Greyson Lambert, the Bulldog's starter, and Jacob Eason were trading quarterback duties back and forth. North Carolina running back T.J. Logan scored on offense and in the return game. Suddenly, Georgia found itself down 24-14 will less than 22 minutes left to play.
The oddities of the game's final quarter-and-a-half -- including a UNC safety on a screen pass and numerous penalties -- only added to the tension in the Georgia Dome. But amid all this insanity, there was one constant: Nick Chubb's relentless effort moving the ball on the ground.
Chubb picked up right where he left off, running for 100+ yards in workman-like fashion. The power that Chubb uses in his running style can wear on a defense, and it seems like his burst only improves late in the game. The final score of Georgia's 19-0 run was a 55-yard scamper that brought Chubb's total on the evening to 222 rushing yards on 32 carries.
After the score, former Bulldog great Todd Gurley was on Twitter to celebrate Chubb's success.
Chubb nation stand up touchdown dawgs— Todd Gurley II (@TG3II) September 4, 2016
By getting right back to the productive path he was on before a season-ending injury a year ago, Chubb has returned to the conversation as one of the most impactful individual players in college football. It's not always down-to-down with Chubb, since his impact sometimes takes a full four quarters to really pay off, but the ability to sustain all the hits from a 30-carry evening and still have that top-notch explosion is rare.
So when things get tight for Kirby Smart, as they did on Saturday night, he can turn to Chubb. While the junior's spot in the national conversation will be decided over the stretch of a long season, his health and availability masks some of the concerns for the Bulldogs. Georgia's far from perfect and has a lot of room for improvement, but as long as No. 27 is running, they'll have a chance against anybody on their schedule.