Super Bowl 53 will be a showcase for former Georgia running backs Todd Gurley and Sony Michel, and it’s fitting their teams will meet at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.Gurley finished with 1,831 total yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018 as part of the Rams’ high-flying offense. Michel leads the postseason with 242 rushing yards and five touchdowns for the Patriots. They give validation to Georgia as “Running Back U.” In that sense, the Super Bowl will link the past, present and future of Georgia’s running back pipeline to the NFL. It also presents an opportunity for those two to join another Bulldogs running back in Super Bowl lore.MORE: Georgia among biggest winners in early signing periodTerrell Davis is the Super Bowl standard for all Georgia running backs to follow. The Denver Broncos’ 1995 sixth-round pick became the second Georgia player ever to earn Super Bowl MVP, thanks to his 157-yard, three-touchdown performance against Green Bay in Super Bowl 32. He is the last running back to earn that honor in 21 seasons.Of course, Georgia’s history is littered with star running backs who went on to NFL success. Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy winner who led Georgia to its last title in 1980, never played in a Super Bowl. But it’s important to note he rushed for 5,562 yards in the USFL from 1983-85, becoming the now-defunct league’s most-recognizable player.Walker and Davis bookended periodic waves that produced first-round picks Rodney Hampton (1990) and Garrison Hearst (1993). They had modest success in the NFL playoffs (453 combined yards and three touchdowns in 10 games), but never made the Big Game. Fullback Patrick Pass won three Super Bowls as a role player for the Patriots, and Verron Haynes had one carry for two yards for the Steelers in Super Bowl 40. Knowshon Moreno was a 1,000-yard rusher who had five carries for 17 yards in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 48 loss.Gurley and Michel, however, are part of an even stronger wave Georgia fans have experienced since the 2014 season. Those two were part of a three-headed monster along with Nick Chubb, now with the Cleveland Browns.Those three running backs combined for 301 rushing yards and four touchdowns in the season-opening, 45-21 win against Clemson that year. They combined for 2,868 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns in the only season they all played together. Those three finally reunited on the NFL stage in 2018: Gurley ranked third in the NFL with 1,251 rushing yards and produced a league-best 17 rushing touchdowns, Michel energized the Pats’ running game with 931 yards and six touchdowns and Chubb put up 996 rushing yards and eight scores as part of a rebuild with the Browns.That’s 3,178 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns; part of the reason Gurley, Michel and Chubb stand to be part of the playoff picture for the next several seasons. And with the powerhouse Smart is building at Georgia, there’s reason to believe there will be more where that came from.”I think (Kirby Smart’s) program is an excellent program to prepare players for the NFL,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on Monday (via Fox Sports). “The way they practice, the way they prepare and hold each other accountable and so forth is similar with what we try to do.”MORE: Smart’s lesson from Nick Saban: Don’t be Alabama, be betterElijah Holyfield (1,018 yards, seven touchdowns) will be the next UGA back in the NFL after declaring for the 2019 draft. D’Andre Swift (1,049, 10 touchdowns) averaged 6.8 yards per carry last season and will be among the Heisman Trophy favorites in 2019. Brian Herrien, James Cook and Zamir White are on the roster as well, and four-star running back Kenny McIntosh is committed to the 2019 class. Georgia is loaded at running back for the foreseeable future, and perhaps some of those players will someday share the same stage as Gurley and Michel — something Gurley was asked about this week ahead of the Super Bowl.me: “what makes #UGA running backs different?”todd gurley: “we’re playing in the #SuperBowl” pic.twitter.com/dwcj9dfPHF— Alex Glaze (@Alex_Glaze) January 29, 2019A simple answer, but more than fair considering Georgia running backs’ NFL success this season.Just don’t be surprised if you keep hearing that answer in the coming years.
LAS VEGAS — It was expected to be a star-making performance from Israel Adesanya as he challenged the man that nobody wanted to fight, Yoel Romero. Instead, it was a baffling display of posturing and posing that resulted in a fight that lacked action and was lustily booed but saw Adesanya retain his UFC middleweight title by unanimous decision. Aware that Adesanya’s offense was predicated on capitalizing on the striking mistakes of his opponents, Romero refused to lead the dance and decided to feint, mug and hope that Adesanya would open up so he could explode with a powerful left hook. Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearThat happened midway through a lackluster first round when Romero landed a hard left hook that rocked the champion. That punch caused Adesanya to be more cautious with his approach and led to round after round of stalemates broken up by an occasional leg kick or punch thrown. But Romero simply didn’t do enough in the middle rounds as he continued to give the New Zealander different looks but opted not to fire. The 2000 Olympic silver medalist in wrestling finally shot for a takedown after being poked in the eye in the third round and managed to get Adesanya to the canvas. But Adesanya popped up to his feet and circled away from his stalking opponent. Adesanya and Romero danced a dance that was eerily reminiscent of the Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson UFC 209 clash that saw both fighters refuse to engage. Romero began to talk to Adesanya in the fourth round, but that was all the action we would get aside from the champion landing several leg kicks. The crowd jeered heavily throughout and filled the arena with boos in the final round. The only action was Adesanya flipping his opponent the bird when Romero dared him to come forward and exchange punches with him in the closing seconds. In the end, Adesanya had the judges see it in his favor with scores of 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46. But nobody was satisfied with the result. Fortunately, all was not lost Saturday, because the co-main event delivered what is likely the greatest women’s MMA fight of all time as Weili Zhang squeezed by Joanna Jedrzejczyk via split decision to retain her strawweight title. From the opening bell, the action was frantic. Zhang and Jedrzejczyk engaged in an absolutely thrilling firefight filled with wicked exchanges and scintillating action. Jedrzejczyk’s varied assault sought to thwart Zhang’s aggressive advances and both found success throughout the fight in a breathtaking display of offense. Zhang’s power separated the two and a thudding right hand in the second frame created a grotesque hematoma on the forehead of the former champion. The action never let up as the rounds progressed. Neither did the swelling on Jedrzejczyk’s head that reached Hasim Rahman proportions. The Polish fighter refused to back down, however, and continued to step into the pocket and exchange with the champion. Both landed hard right hands throughout as Jedrzejczyk mixed up her assault to make up for the lack of power while Zhang repeatedly landed bombs that would move her opponent backward.An absolute thriller that left the crowd standing in applause entering the fifth round saw the two combatants leave it all in the Octagon with a dizzying display of offense. Jedrzejczyk snapped Zhang’s head back on several occasions but the champion dug deep to find yet another barrage of power shots as the fight came to a close. Two judges saw it in favor of the champion with 48-47 scores while one judge gave it to the challenger with a 48-47 score. Although Zhang retained, one can fully expect these two to meet again in the future.