Georgia Football

The Making of Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and David Andrews: 2014 in Athens

January 30, 2019
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ATLANTA - David Andrews’ voice could be heard all the way to the front row of Sanford Stadium’s seats. 

The senior from metro Atlanta was rallying his teammates for one last push - to beat their rivals in their home. So much had gone so wrong already that season. This was an opportunity to get it right. 

All stories don’t have happy endings - and that story didn’t have one, either. But five years later, New England’s David Andrews and Sony Michel and Los Angeles’ Todd Gurley will have a chance to write a very different ending than what happened that final home game of 2014. 

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Sunday’s story ends with someone taking the Vince Lombardi Trophy home with them. Andrews has already experienced that sensation once before. Now Michel and Gurley, running backs in the same UGA backfield in 2014, get the same chance. 

Winning the Super Bowl in Atlanta was about as far from the trios’ mind entering the fall of 2014. In fact, the group was likely most concerned about what they would have to do to get Georgia back to its winning ways. 

UGA football would have to rely on its running game more than ever in 2014. Talented and dependable signal caller Aaron Murray was gone, and the program was transitioning from a disappointing 2013. That fall the program was riddled with injuries and wound up with a dissapeointng 8-5 season. The defensive coordinator spot had change. The quarterback had changed. Georgia was very different than a season before. 

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ATHENS - Todd Gurley scores on a one-yard run during No. 12 Georgia's 35-32 win over Tennessee at Sanford Stadium on September 27, 2014. (Ethan Burch/Dawg Post)

Still, Gurley, the program’s star running back, returned for his final season in Athens with classmate Keith Marshall. The duo had come to school at Georgia in 2012 and exploded on the scene that year. But Marshall and Gurley, both, missed time in the middle of the 2013 season and Georgia dropped back-to-back games to Missouri and Vanderbilt to fall out of contention in the SEC race. 

The destruction of the 2013 UGA roster reinforced that in the SEC two running backs wasn’t enough. 

So Brian McClendon added 5-star American Heratige (FL) RB Sony Michel and 4-star Cedartown RB Nick Chubb in the 2014 recruiting cycle. Suddenly, the Bulldogs had a hedge on the season. Even if Gurley or Marshall were hurt like in 2013, Georgia would have a freshman duo to carry the load. 

Ultimately Georgia would need that hedge as 2014 was like no season before it in Athens.

In the meantime, the offensive line was coming into shape. David Andrews, a 3-star recruit who signed in 2011, was three years into taking over the starting center spot from four-year starter Ben Jones. Jones had gone on to be selected by the Houston Texans in the 2012 NFL Draft, and Andrews snatched away air apparent status with hard work in the 2011 season. 

Jones had been so good over time - perhaps the prototypical center - that Andrews would have to strive well to live up to the play Jones had given the program since 2008. He did just that. By 2014, Andrews was on the way to becoming captain of the program. 

But the challenges of the year were the usual gauntlet of SEC and ACC foes. Georgia kicked off the 2014 season with a critical game against No. 16 Clemson before traveling to No. 24 South Carolina. 

Down 21-14 to the Tigers in the season opener, Georgia lined Gurley up to return the kickoff. The Bulldogs had been up 21-14 on the Tigers the year before, but, in a preview of what was to come the rest of that year, Gurley sustained an injury in the 2nd quarter that kept him out for most of the second quarter. Future New England Patriot Malcolm Mitchell’s season was ended after Gurley’s 75-yard TD run in the first quarter. 

But Gurley had different plans this year. He, nearly single handily, made sure Clemson wouldn’t win in 2014. 

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ATHENS - Todd Gurley scores a touchdown on a 100-yard kickoff return during No. 12 Georgia's 45-21 win over No. 16 Clemson at Sanford Stadium on August 30, 2014. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

13 seconds and 100 yards later, Gurley returned the kick for a touchdown. He was in the end zone and the game was tied. Georgia took the momentum form there - allowing no more Clemson scores. In the fourth quarter, Gurley and the Dawgs exploded. Gurley scored on an 18-yard run. Then Chubb, who managed to make the bulk of his 47-yard run with only one shoe, thrashed the Tigers as Andrews cheered him on, fist pumping, down the sideline. On the next possession, Gurley scored again - this time from 51 yards out. 

Georgia’s 45-21 win was only complete after another Chubb touchdown was called back for UGA lining up in the wrong formation. The score very easily could have been 52-21. 

Gurley destroyed Clemson - 15 carries for 198 yards and three TDs with another 100 yards in returns and a touchdown. 298 total yards and four touchdowns 

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ATHENS - A shoeless Nick Chubb scores on a 47-yard touchdown run as David Andrews tries to keep pace during No. 12 Georgia's 45-21 win over No. 16 Clemson at Sanford Stadium on August 30, 2014. (Wes Muilenburg/Dawg Post)

This was Georgia in 2014 - at least that’s what it looked like it would be. Georgia’s offense, with Todd Gurley, was scary. 

Two weeks later, the Dawgs’ run game moved to Columbia, but legendary coach Steve Spurrier ran all over Georgia’s defense. The Dawgs put up 35 points, and 233 yards rushing on the road, but Spurrier’s offense scored 38. A golden opportunity to win the game vanished late in the fourth when the Bulldogs couldn’t score even though they had the ball first and goal from the South Carolina six-yard line. 

Georgia lost 38-35. The season settled in after the up-and-down nature of the first two weeks of the season. 

But through two weeks it was clear the Dawgs had special players in their backfield. 

Todd Gurley - 35 carries for 329 yards and 4 TDs; 100 return yards 1 TD
Nick Chubb - 8 carries for 104 yards and 1 TD
Sony Michel - 10 carries for 51 yards; 4 receptions for 53 yards and 1 TD

Wins over Troy (66-0), Tennessee (35-32) and Vanderbilt (44-17) followed. But injuries, much like the season before, were starting to catch up with UGA. Michel suffered a shoulder injury against Tennessee that left him out of the lineup until November. Marshall suffered a right leg injury against Troy. 

Having so many gifted running backs was no longer a luxury, but a necessity. 

Gurley was the engine for the Dawgs. After the Tennessee game, he had become the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. He added 59 carries, 444 yards and 4 more TDs. His left-handed 50-yard pass against Vanderbilt was the longest pass completed by the Bulldogs that year. 

After the Vanderbilt game, Gurley was swarmed seemingly more so than before. If it wasn’t clear before then it was clear then - Todd Gurley was a star. There was no one like him on the national stage. He could run. He could return. Hell, he could throw. 

There was nothing normal about Todd Gurley, and there was nothing normal about what came next for him or the program. 

The Thursday before Georgia left to play at Missouri, UGA indefinitely suspended Gurley for selling autographs. Confusion poured all over the fanbase and inside the program. Players didn’t know when to expect Gurley’s return. Gurley didn’t know when to expect to return - or if he would be allowed to. Media outlets didn’t know if Gurley could return, and were struggling to report what was a wild situation. 

Meanwhile, without Gurley, Michel or Marshall, UGA’s season was on the line against Missouri. Georgia was a slight favorite to win the game, but Chubb exploded onto the national scene with a dominant performance. Georgia’s defense, which struggled against South Carolina, nearly won the game by themselves - allowing only 147 total yards and forcing five turnovers. 

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LITTLE ROCK, AR - Nick Chubb during No. 10 Georgia's 45-32 win over Arkansas at War Memorial Stadium on October 18, 2014. (Ethan Burch/Dawg Post)

Chubb was a monster. The true freshman piled up 143 yards on 38 carries with a touchdown. Reserve back Brendan Douglass added another 65 yards a score. 

Georgia’s No. 5 running back was doing flips into the end zone. Andrews and Georgia’s offensive line were too much for the Tigers. Georgia won 34-0 amidst the turmoil facing the program with the Gurley saga just getting underway. 

A week later, Georgia had to travel to Little Rock to take on Arkansas. Once more, Chubb thrashed and powered for the Dawgs - 30 carries for 202 yards with two TDs. Back-to-back drives ending with Chubb scores in the second quarter were compounded with back-to-back defensive plays that added 14 more points. 

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ATHENS - Sony Michel during No. 16 Georgia Tech's 30-24 win over No. 9 Georgia Tech at the Sanford Stadium on November 29, 2014. (Ethan Burch/Dawg Post)

In a quarter UGA went from up one to up 25. Georgia eventually won 45-32, but it seemed the worst of the season was behind the Dawgs. Chatter inside the program started developing that Gurley might return for the annual showdown with Florida. A few days before the game, UGA was notified by the NCAA that Gurley could not play against the Gators. That was not made public at that time, and few players seemed aware of it until just before traveling to Jacksonville for the game. 

That letdown seemed to drag the Bulldogs down with it. Down 7-0, Florida scored a touchdown on a fake field goal from 21 yards out and never looked back. The Gators only threw the ball six times and gave the Dawgs a taste of their own medicine - running for 418 yards during the 38-20 upset. 

Even in defeat Chubb was stellar. He had a score on his 21 carries for 161 yards. But the season was a mess. A loss to the Gators nearly always spoils Georgia’s season. That coupled with the uncertainty surrounding Gurley’s status made things very cloudy. Georgia still had the head-to-head win over Missouri, but now trailed the Tigers by a game in the SEC East because of the loss to the Gators and Cocks. 

Still, Gurley was, in fact, returning. 

On October 22, UGA filed for Gurley’s reinstatement and asked for a “prompt ruling”. A week later, the Wednesday before the Florida game, the NCAA said that Gurley would have to serve a four-game suspension for “accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individual for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years.”

Gurley would be back, finally. But Michel and Chubb would have to handle a road trip to Kentucky first. Michel’s return (16 carries for 84 yards and a score) and Chubb’s usual effort (another 170 yards on 13 carries and a score) was way too much for the Cats. Georgia ran away with it 63-31. 

That set up the biggest game of the year in Athens. Georgia and Auburn have played games in three different centuries, and twice in four years the star of the team had eligibility questions come up that threatened the players’ availability for the game. Cam Newton managed to avoid missing a game for the Tigers in 2010, but there was real debut about his chanced to play Georgia (and beyond) that fall. 

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ATHENS - Todd Gurley during No. 16 Georgia's 34-7 win over No. 9 Auburn at Sanford Stadium on November 15, 2014. (Ethan Burch/Dawg Post)

This time Gurley was returning. He was one of the most popular players in the last decade at UGA. The Bulldogs’ fanbase, like so many in college sports, viewed the suspension in the prism of Newton and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel not being suspended as proof that the NCAA was an overreaching organization bent on hurting Georgia. 

The usual rivalry with Auburn was enough to get the blood boiling in Athens. But the Tigers were a top ten team, it was a night game and Todd Gurley was back. 

It was on. 

After the Tigers scored to go up 7-0, Auburn lined up for the kickoff. 

Todd Gurley ran it back 105 yards. Dabo Swinney had already made that mistake. Gus Malzahn  was hell bent on repeating it. 

Sanford Stadium nearly fell down. Gurley’s touchdown was called back, but Georgia used the juiced-up crowd to go from being down seven to up 17-7 at the half. Chubb and Gurley. Gurley and Chubb. Auburn was getting run on hard. This was what this season was supposed to look like. 

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ATHENS - Todd Gurley returns a kickoff 100 yards for a TD, but it is called back during No. 16 Georgia's 34-7 win over No. 9 Auburn at Sanford Stadium on November 15, 2014. (Ethan Burch/Dawg Post)

Gurley added a 3-yard score to put the Dawgs up 24-7 midway through the third quarter. With the game winding down, and the Dawgs about to punch it in to close the game out, Gurley ran over left tackle - gaining six yards and a first down. 

He was slow to get up. What wasn’t clear was that Gurley’s career at Georgia was over. He suffered an ACL injury, and wasn’t available to play the rest of the way. He ended his season playing in six games and earning 911 yards rushing on 123 carries with nine TDs. He completed UGA’s longest pass of the year with his only attempt - a 50-yard pass. He had 12 receptions for 57 yards. And he had four kickoff returns for 179 yards and touchdown.

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ATHENS - Todd Gurley lays hurt on the final snap of his college career during No. 16 Georgia's 34-7 win over No. 9 Auburn at Sanford Stadium on November 15, 2014. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

Now a healthy Michel and Chubb would have to get behind Andrews and the offensive line the rest of the way.

After a blowout over Charleston Southern that saw Chubb dominate again (113 yards with a score on nine touches), UGA had the season-ending game against Georgia Tech with a Peach Bowl berth on the line. 

But two fumbles by Chubb and Michel inside the Tech three-yard line allowed the Jackets to stay close in what became one of the wildest games in the rivalry’s history. Down four and on fourth-and-goal from the Tech three, Georgia scored to go up 24-21. It seemed that the Dawgs had won a wild game in Athens. 

But, in one of the most controversial series of events of the Mark Richt era in Athens, a squib kick coupled with a 21-yard scramble gave allowed Tech to force overtime after a 53-yard field goal just crossed the pipes. 

David Andrews gathered his teammates around him, and spoke from the heart around the 50-yard line as the Dawgs headed into the unlikely overtime. Nothing about UGA’s 2014 had a fairy tale ending. Andrews’ speech rallied the troops, but an interception in overtime landed the Dawgs on the wrong end of a 30-24 loss in Athens. 

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ATHENS - David Andrews speaks to his teammates before the fourth quarter during No. 16 Georgia Tech's 30-24 win over No. 9 Georgia Tech at the Sanford Stadium on November 29, 2014. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

The program was bitter. Gurley was gone with the ACL for the year. Young pups Michel and Chubb had a rough final game of the year. And the program was headed to the mid-level Belk Bowl rather than the New Year’s Six’s Peach Bowl. 

Chubb tore up Louisville for UGA bowl record 266 yards. Michel added a touchdown, and the Dawgs ended the year 10-3. 

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CHARLOTTE - Nick Chubb during No. 13 Georgia's 37-14 win over No. 20 Louisville during the 2014 Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium on December 30, 2014. (Ethan Burch/Dawg Post)

An era had ended. Perhaps the most talented backfield in UGA history concluded the year with what could have been. 

Todd Gurley has never backed down from why UGA was and is so important to him. After being drafted No. 10 overall by the St. Louis Rams in 2015 NFL Draft an emotional Gurley told ESPN’s Suzy Kolber:

“With the suspension and ACL - man - it has been a long journey.”

David Andrews signed a undrafted free agent deal with New England that spring. He assumed the started role for the team three games into his career after an injury placed Bryan Stork on injured reserve. He was named team captain heading into first game of 2017, and won Super Bowl LI later that season. 

Sony Michel decided to return to school for his final year of eligibility in 2017 along with close friend and teammate Nick Chubb. Michel scored the game-winning touchdown against Oklahoma in the 2018 Rose Bowl Game to send Georgia to the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. He was drafted 31st overall by New England in the 2018 NFL Draft. He scored the Patriots’ game-winning touchdown against Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game earlier this month to send the Patriots to Super Bowl LII. 
 

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ATHENS - David Andrews celebrates Nick Chubb’s touchdown during No. 12 Georgia's 45-21 win over No. 16 Clemson at Sanford Stadium on August 30, 2014. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

 

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The Making of Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and David Andrews: 2014 in Athens

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