University of Missouri

MU’s defense disappointed not to face Nick Chubb, knows better than to expect dropoff

Georgia will be without sophomore running back Nick Chubb on Saturday when it kicks off at 6:30 p.m. against Missouri at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.

It’s the third straight season the Tigers won’t have to face the Bulldogs’ top running back.

“Since I’ve been here, I don’t think I’ve ever played against their starting running back,” Missouri senior linebacker Kentrell Brothers said.

He certainly hasn’t in three seasons as a starter.

Todd Gurley missed the 2013 meeting at Georgia, a stirring 41-26 victory for Missouri, because of an ankle injury.

He was then suspended, pending an NCAA investigation into extra benefits Gurley might have received for use of his likeness, during last season’s Tigers-Bulldogs game at Memorial Stadium.

Chubb will need surgery after damaging his left knee on the first carry of a loss Saturday at Tennessee. He suffered cartilage damage and tore multiple ligaments, including the posterior cruciate ligament, but did not tear the anterior cruciate ligament.

“Seeing a running back with a leg injury like that is tough, but you know an injury like that can happen when you step out on the field,” Missouri senior Russell Hansbrough said. “I’m sure he’s got people around him to support him and I’m just praying for him.”

Hansbrough’s mind immediately went to former Tigers tailback Henry Josey when he saw Chubb’s injury. Josey tore multiple knee ligaments and needed more than 18 months to recover after a gruesome 2011 injury.

“I definitely thought about Henry Josey and how he tore everything in his knee, but I just know that Nick’s going to be back on the field sooner or later,” Hansbrough said. “I wish him the best.”

Missouri’s defense, which ranks first in the SEC in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and passing defense (163.2 ypg) and second in total defense (275.8 ypg) behind only Alabama, was disappointed Chubb wouldn’t be available for the game.

“I'm sorry to hear it,” senior safety and captain Ian Simon said of the knee injury, “because I really wanted to go against Nick Chubb. He’s a great running back, one of the best running back in college football, and a great challenge for our defense. … I was definitely looking forward to it, and I'm really sorry to hear that he got hurt.”

Brothers expressed a similar sentiment.

“You want to play against a good running back,” Brothers said. “Those are the fun games to play.”

Of course, after Chubb racked up 143 yards and a touchdown in 38 carries in Georgia’s 34-0 win last season, Missouri knows better than to count up the backup running back.

Chubb had rushed for 747 yards and seven touchdowns this season, but Sony Michel is a tough runner in his own right. Michel has 421 yards and four touchdowns in 63 carries.

“He’s a talented guy — runs behind his pads, good body lean,” MU defensive coordinator Barry Odom said. “I think he’s got really good quickness. He’s strong, a strong running back.”

Michel also has 12 catches for 174 yards and three touchdowns receiving, while his backup, junior Keith Marshall, has 28 carries for 155 yards and three touchdowns rushing on the season.

“They seem to do a pretty good job with the tailbacks there the University Georgia,” Tigers defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski said. “I know that Sony is really a darn good player and (junior Keith Marshall) is a really good player. It's a big challenge for us.”

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer