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Liberty Bowl grades: Georgia's running backs lead Bulldogs past TCU

MEMPHIS, TN - DECEMBER 30: Running back Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs looks to maneuver by linebacker Sammy Douglas #35 of the TCU Horned Frogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. At halftime the TCU Horned Frogs leads the Georgia Bulldogs 16-14. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Georgia Bulldogs 31, TCU Horned Frogs 23

Here are the highest-graded players and top takeaways from Georgia's 31-23 Liberty Bowl victory over TCU.

TCU Horned Frogs

Quarterback grade: Kenny Hill, 67.9

Hill falters under pressure

TCU QB Kenny Hill managed to accumulate 78 percent of his 51 rushing yards after contact—good for a team-high 82.7 rushing grade—and excelled passing the rock when he was provided with a clean pocket. During situations when Hill was not under pressure, he scored the 10th-best QB rating of bowl season (122.5), and posted the 12th-highest adjusted completion percentage (77.3 percent). However, Hill’s numbers would dramatically plummet when under pressure, with his QB rating (42.4) ranking as the 13th-worst, low enough that simply spiking the football on each of those plays would’ve only dropped that value down to 39.6.

Kenny Hill vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

C Austin Schlottmann, 79.1

LT Lucas Niang, 78.7

WR Jarrison Stewart, 68.6

WR Desmon White, 67.6

RT Aviante Collins, 63.2

Odd usage of playmakers 

Consider that WR John Diarse (73.4 overall grade) corralled both of his targeted passes for touchdowns and yet played only 16 snaps. WR KaVontae Turpin saw the field for 17 snaps, only two touches, and zero receiving targets, despite manufacturing 126 yards on four kickoff returns. Rather than searching for the hot hand on offense, the TCU game-plan called for targeting 10 different receivers, none seeing more than four, and force-feeding RB Kyle Hicks (49.2) with 22 touches. 

Top defensive grades:

DI Aaron Curry, 79.4

DI L.J. Collier, 79.3

DI Chris Bradley, 73.4

RCB Jeff Gladney, 69.0

FS Niko Small, 67.0

Game closer than final score

Despite losing by double-digits, the Horned Frogs’ defense kept the game within reach of a potential victory until late in the final quarter. The defensive interior (Aaron Curry, L.J. Collier, and Chris Bradley) posted the defense’s three highest grades, combining for a pair of sacks, four additional QB pressures, and seven defensive stops. However, the linebacker trio of Ty Summers, Travin Howard, and Sammy Douglas would surrender six missed tackles, and were proven to be a liability in coverage.

Georgia Bulldogs

Quarterback grade: Jacob Eason, 60.9

Eason continuing to develop

With an NFL family pedigree and the ability to toss the football the length of the football field, Eason holds an extremely bright future. However, he is still in the process of pulling together his abilities, as is expected from a 19-year-old thrown into the fire. While he did continue to wildly throw a handful of passes, he also displayed remarkable poise when blitzed (105.4 passer rating), and even managed to accumulate a season-high in rushing yards, thanks to collecting 24 yards when scrambling away from pressure.

Jacob Eason vs pressure

Top offensive grades:

RB Sony Michel, 86.9

RB Nick Chubb, 78.5

WR Isaiah McKenzie, 78.4

TE Jeb Blazevich, 73.6

WR Javon Wims, 64.2

All about the skill positions

With time, Eason will likely help the Bulldogs to do great things in the SEC, but in the meantime, the running back duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were more than enough to score the Liberty Bowl victory. The two combined for 229 rushing yards, a pair of touchdowns, and the offense’s highest overall grades. TE Jeb Blazevich supplied the game’s highest run-blocking grade (81.0) and WR Isaiah McKenzie was able to eclipse 100 receiving yards, thanks to an electrifying 77-yard run-and-catch—the second—longest of the bowl season so far—that left a trio of TCU defenders with visionary broken ankles. 

Top defensive grades:

FS Aaron Davis, 86.9

DI Trenton Thompson, 81.7

ED Lorenzo Carter, 81.5

ILB Roquan Smith, 79.7

RCB Deandre Baker, 78.6

Georgia defense unbroken

While TCU QB Kenny Hill was able to move the football at times, he found stiff resistance late with the opportunity to go ahead. FS Aaron Davis earned the second-highest safety grade of the bowl season so far, with an 85.0 run-defense and 84.6 coverage grades. DI Trenton Thompson had his way with the TCU offensive line to the tune of two sacks, three pressures, three solo tackles, and five defensive stops.

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. 

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