Under the lights of Sanford Stadium on the opening Saturday of college football, Todd Gurley ran his way into the record books in 12th-ranked Georgia’s 42-21 win over No. 16 Clemson.
In a school record-breaking performance for all-purpose yards, Gurley (Tarboro, N.C.) tallied 298 yards, 198 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 15 carries combined with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. With tonight’s performance, Gurley now has 2,672 rushing yards in his career.
“Todd—he’s amazing,” freshman running back Nick Chubb said. “He’s a beast. I look up to him and he makes me better.”
Gurley’s first scoring play came with 6:46 left in the first quarter on a 23-yard run to tie the score at 7-7. Hudson Mason added a touchdown on the ground on the following drive. But Clemson responded—putting together back-to-back scoring drives—and took a 21-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
After lining up deep for every Clemson kick but having no chance to return, Gurley found his window with 7:15 left in the second. Gurley returned the kick from five yards deep in the end zone, cut around blocks and broke several tackles to get loose in open territory and score. It was his second career 100-yard kick return for a touchdown.
“Coach Ball and Coach Lilly had a great game plan and we knew that we would have the middle of the field open,” Gurley said. “I just had to get there and get through the hole. Luckily, I was able to do that and I just kept running.”
He also added two touchdowns in the second half, with one of those scores coming on a 51-yard run.
Gurley was not the only Georgia running back to turn heads, however. True freshmen Chubb, Isaiah McKenzie and Sony Michel all carried the ball in their Georgia debuts. Chubb (Cedartown, Ga.) ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on four carries. His scoring play came on a 47-yard run, dodging several defenders and breaking away down the sideline.
Michel (Plantation, Fla.) ran for 33 yards on six carries and added 20 receiving yards on three catches. McKenzie (Miami, Fla.) carried the ball once for nine yards, tallied 11 receiving yards and added a 24-yard punt return to his first collegiate performance.
“I know anytime any of our running backs are in the game, they’re going to do something successful,” Michel said. “I try to resemble Todd. I try to be as successful as he is. I’m not surprised [by his performance] at all. That’s what I expect from him.”