Georgia projects well for 2013, even with flaws in win

Mark Richt gets the Gatorade bath after Georgia's Capitol Bowl win over Nebraska. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Mark Richt gets the Gatorade bath after Georgia's Capitol Bowl win over Nebraska. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ORLANDO – The players wore hats reading “CHAMPIONS” in all cap letters. The fact that “Capital One Bowl” — and not SEC or BCS — also was stitched on the caps in a much smaller script might deflate that declaration a bit, but it doesn’t take away from where Georgia may be headed.

Were the Bulldogs great in their final game of the 2012 season? Hardly. The defense, purported to be loaded with NFL talent, too often played sloppy and undisciplined. The quarterback, Aaron Murray, threw two interceptions in the team’s first three possessions. It is what happens sometimes in bowl games. The Dogs didn’t save their best for last. Their best came in the next-to-last game against Alabama.

But ultimately, what came out of Georgia’s 45-31 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl were signs that this program isn’t likely to take a step back next season.

There will be new players. There will be a different team personality. The schedule will be tougher. But the Bulldogs just finished a season that saw them go 12-2 and come within five yards of winning the SEC championship and going to the BCS title game. They rebounded from the crushing loss in the SEC championship game to win a significant bowl game. They showed resiliency by losing two starting wide receivers (Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett) during the season and a third in Tuesday’s game (Malcolm Mitchell). They endured several early season suspensions on defense and played without two defensive starters against Nebraska (John Jenkins, Abry Jones).

Jarvis Jones and several defensive starters now are expected to leave for the NFL. Maybe Murray comes back, but probably not. But Georgia is in a good place now, a player again on the national scene, and nobody could have seen that coming two years ago in Memphis when the team schlepped off the field a loser to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, dragging a 6-7 record.

“The seniors started a legacy here,” freshman running back Todd Gurley said Tuesday. “They’re passing it down to us, and we’re just going to keep moving forward and winning each year. I know a lot of teams will have the goal of going to the national championship next year, but we really believe that. We’re going to bring in a great recruiting class and we’re going to get it done next year.”

Todd Gurley, here breaking through for a 24-yard touchdown, finished with 125 yards rushing to lead the Bulldogs. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Todd Gurley, here breaking through for a 24-yard touchdown, finished with 125 yards rushing to lead the Bulldogs. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

As flawed as the Dogs looked against Nebraska, the result and the season projected well for the future.

It starts with the two freshmen in the backfield, Gurley and Keith Marshall. There were questions about the running game going into the season following the excommunication of Isaiah Crowell, but the two quickly eased concerns. In the final game of the season, Gurley rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown and Marshall made a difficult back-shoulder, 24-yard touchdown catch to give the Dogs a 38-31 lead early in the fourth quarter.

There’s the future.

It doesn’t matter if the starting quarterback is Murray or Hutson Mason. Georgia’s offense should function well, and the team should be in the middle of things again.

When asked about Marshall’s catch, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, “We’ve kept things pretty simple for him and Todd because they’re freshmen. But that play there gives us a level of confidence next year that we can expand their package.”

Gurley, Bobo said, brought “a physicality to the offense that we needed. He did a great job leading us as a freshman. I told him after the game, ‘You had a great year, but now you have a chance to be great. So let’s go to work.’”

Marshall said he battled knee tendinitis before the season, affecting his workouts. “I lost some of my explosiveness,” he said. “But it’s finally feeling better. I’m looking forward to getting started on my workouts.”

And then this: “Honestly, I feel we’re the best team in the country. We can play with anybody. We were one play away this year.”

There were hiccups Tuesday. The first half took nearly two hours. The two teams combined for 47 points, five offensive touchdowns, three interceptions (including Nebraska’s pick-six against Murray), a field goal and a blocked punt for a safety. The Dogs trailed 24-23, then 31-23. But Murray, after starting 11 for 24, stopped scaring NFL scouts. He connected with Chris Conley for a 49-yard touchdown, then later scrambled away from pressure to connect with Marshall. Later, he found Conley again on a “jailbreak screen” against Nebraska’s blitz — nice call by Bobo – for an 87-yard score. Checkmate.

It ended well. There’s reason to believe it could end well next season, too.

By Jeff Schultz

EARLIER: Short takes: Murray and defense rebound

772 comments Add your comment

Skeptic

January 1st, 2013
7:52 pm

Bueller? Bueller?

defactodawg

January 1st, 2013
7:58 pm

The challenge for this team will be on the defensive side of the ball. With the exodus of NFL level talent, there will be opportunity aplenty for young players to fill the gaps. Who will be the next junkyard dawg?

kerryb

January 1st, 2013
7:59 pm

Murray’s not going anywhere. He projects as the 10th QB in the draft by McShay and he is not desperate for the money like some players from different backgrounds.

phil

January 1st, 2013
7:59 pm

Gurley, Bobo said, brought “a physicality to the offense that we needed. He did a great job leading us as a freshman. I told him after the game, ‘You had a great year, but now you have a chance to be great. So let’s go to work.’”
*********
mike Bobo, ladies and gents….

You were great but now have a chance to be great.

Deliver me, lord.

FalconUGAFan

January 1st, 2013
8:00 pm

I liked that they didn’t fall flat when things seem to be going the wrong way. I didn’t like the penalties.

I seems that Coach Bobo has turned a bit of a corner this year. I like his play calling alot better.

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:01 pm

Money?

Murray should stay because he would never, ever set foot on a field in the NFL.

He should never play an exhibition game. Too short.

Dawg Days

January 1st, 2013
8:01 pm

Hmmm….only time will tell. Go Dawgs! Nice season.

JB

January 1st, 2013
8:02 pm

There will be 8 or 9 NFL jobs open by the weekend and all will be looking to staff them with Coach’s. 70 or 80 coach’s will be moving around ( they all just get recycled) but Grantham has lot’s of ” friends” in the NFL. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Dawgs aren’t hunting a new DC in the next 3 weeks or so. With Garner gone, things could get interesting. The cupboard is pretty bare….or should I say unproven for next year. Grantham would listen. You heard it here first.

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:02 pm

I say give Richt a lifetime deal!

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:03 pm

Reward never, ever even making it TO a national championship game!

Why not….

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 1st, 2013
8:03 pm

You wont win this league if you dont have good defense period and right now we still dont have a good defense

FalconUGAFan

January 1st, 2013
8:04 pm

Drew Brees- 6 ft 0
Aaron Murray-6 ft 1

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:06 pm

Yes.

Aaron Murray is clearly the equal of Drew Brees.

Good point. Silly me.

Skeptic

January 1st, 2013
8:06 pm

Anybody got a “Son, this is Bird-Dawg Country” hat (cir 1980) hat they want to sell?

If it’s authentic, it would be a real tall trucker hat with foam in the front and mesh in the back

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 1st, 2013
8:08 pm

JB

I would be shocked at Grantham leaving a program that accepts mediocrity like we do to bolt for the NFL where the avg coordinator doesnt last anytime

FalconUGAFan

January 1st, 2013
8:09 pm

I didn’t say that. You stated he was too short. Shorter players have played and excelled. I personally don’t think his height is his biggest downfall, but no NFL scouts will ask me so it doesn’t matter.

FalconUGAFan

January 1st, 2013
8:09 pm

I didn’t say that. You stated he was too short. Shorter players have played and excelled. I personally don’t think his height is his biggest downfall, but no NFL scouts will ask me so it doesn’t matter.

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:09 pm

Beneath my silly negativism lies a reasonably happy dawg fan…

Yes, we won. Proud of the boys, but still very disgusted with the coaches for robbing us of a shot at a not one but two titles.

Dumb usually can’t be fixed.

JB

January 1st, 2013
8:09 pm

Phil….Richt has a lifetime deal…..750 winning percentage and just a good guy= lifetime in College football. He would of had 7 or 8 offers if he was available this past hiring season. He is NOT Saban and never will be.

dap01

January 1st, 2013
8:10 pm

Phil: You are miserable and not really a good or smart troll. Enjoy the blowup doll tonight.

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:11 pm

Fair enough….

He isn’t a big game QB. Not even close.

BearDawg

January 1st, 2013
8:11 pm

To all the real UGA fans: Let’s try an experiment. Everyone completely ignore(don’t even read) and definitely do not respond to Phil’s comments and see if he goes away. I have seen it work with a toddler who is needlessly throwing a tantrum.

JB

January 1st, 2013
8:11 pm

You are eight about working for Richt. You normally only lose your job if a moral issue comes up.

jack bull

January 1st, 2013
8:11 pm

we better find ourselves a PK..and a little more beef on the OL..and ditch the 2 DL formation in trying to stop the run..

Dr. Don

January 1st, 2013
8:12 pm

Phil – he had a “great season” – different from being a great player – the latter takes into account one’s entire career I think.

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:12 pm

dap01, you’re a complete goober and goofball.

Enjoy your blankie.

Skeptic

January 1st, 2013
8:13 pm

Hey, Phil
The reason UGA slips every year is because there’s no real Georgians left in the state. For example, did you eat your black eyed peas and collards with fatback today? If you didn’t, welcome to another heartbreak in 2013.

kerryb

January 1st, 2013
8:15 pm

phil
January 1st, 2013
8:01 pm

Money?

Murray should stay because he would never, ever set foot on a field in the NFL.

He should never play an exhibition game. Too short.

___________________________________________________________

They said the same thing about Drew Brees. Troller

kerryb

January 1st, 2013
8:16 pm

dap01
January 1st, 2013
8:10 pm

Phil: You are miserable and not really a good or smart troll. Enjoy the blowup doll tonight.

__________________________________________________

Like

FalconUGAFan

January 1st, 2013
8:17 pm

Oops sorry for double post…..Thats my take on him too, but he has improved in the big games. Yea some of that is inherent, but the more he plays in big games the more relaxed he SHOULD be. But time will tell.

@BearDawg…not a fair assessment…”Real fans” have different ways of approaching things. I think we all want our Dawgs to perform well.

Snoop Dawg

January 1st, 2013
8:18 pm

What a pathetic article. Next year looks terrible for the Dawgs, with incompetent coaching continuing its pox on Athens. Millions of dollars down the drain for mediocrity.

What kind of HS talent would be dumb enough to sign up under Richt, Bobo, or Grantham? I used to have some respect for Grantham, but after today, no more.

The Dawgs really stink, and I will train myself to quit supporting them in the future. They are downright despicable. I love Athens and my alma mater, but this is just dispicable.

BobDawg

January 1st, 2013
8:18 pm

Both offenses were prolific and thru everything but the kitchen sink at both D’s….When we allowed the 2nd half long drive, I thought we were gassed, but Murray brought us back down for a quick score and it was all we needed to get the momentum back…. I’m looking forward to next year with the Young-uns coming back and all the talent on the team… and I really like what Bobo is doing with the O… Murray had the 2 picks and he kept the hammer down with the long pass to T. King…

BobDawg

January 1st, 2013
8:22 pm

… and speaking of Bowl wins…What is going on with the SEC West??? 0-2 I think while the SEC East is 3-0

Dawgdad (The Original)

January 1st, 2013
8:22 pm

Before we set the odds in the 2013 National Championship game, can we wait until at least the first game of the season, against Clempson, is completed.

Honey boy

January 1st, 2013
8:26 pm

Hey Phil, you’re a total idiot… Besides that, thats the only knock on Murray? Really? Look up his stats Einstein… He’s not the second coming but he’s certainly worth a serious draft pick!
So Phil. Shave your back, slink back into your single wide, plant your thumb squarely up your azz and wait till next year….

Cohutta Dawgman

January 1st, 2013
8:30 pm

I used to have a Bird Dawg cap. I should have that and my 6 pack of Billy Beer.

wally

January 1st, 2013
8:30 pm

Fast forward to August 31sst 2013. Clemson’s Death Valley.. Get the picture 80,000 fans the stadium is rocking.Dogs dressed in their road uniforms mmmoving from right to left here is the kick it goes to Gurley he has one block, he has to blocks, there is an opening, he is going to take it to the house, at the 40,at he 30 at the 20, at he 10 TOUCHDOWN. seventy thousand in orange are stunned. Ten thousand Bulldogs are screaming their heads off.My goodness what a runner.Gurley has just put the Dogs on top. Well i guess i have used my imagination a little, but this could easily happen. over the years UGA has had Clemson’s number. I hope it does not stop next August. Clemson will be good. I just hope the Dogs will be bettet. The gamecocks will be in the next game or two. Dogs let us determine in our hearts to take the state of South Carolina

Jim Jack

January 1st, 2013
8:31 pm

YES!!!!! Great thinking. I never thought of it, but Grantham should go to the NFL, Cleveland Browns would be a GREAT fit. Perfect fit!!!!!!!!!!

Skeptic

January 1st, 2013
8:34 pm

Cohutta Dawgman
What will you take for it?

I don’t want the Billy Beer, though. That stuff was rough.

Skeptic

January 1st, 2013
8:35 pm

Sorry, just realized you said you “used” to have one. hotalmighty

DirtyDawg82

January 1st, 2013
8:36 pm

UGA wins and I am happy for that but the game, the defensive gaffs, penalties, and average special teams was the reason the game margin was exactly as Las Vegas predicted. We surprised no one with the win because we should and must win these games. On the other hand, I was really pleased with the play of some of the young defensive players getting quality time due to personnel loses and fatigue of starters. That has me much more confident we can fill the gaps with departures as we move forward. However, until we can be more robust in the trenches and stop the stupid pointless penalties, we will continue to make games closer than they should be and continue to drop games that keep us from the promised land. It is a question of accountability for performance and impact if you don’t bring your best. Perfection is impossible but that doesnt mean you dont try to achieve it. That is a cultural issue with our program and that is not going to change. still I am proud to be a Georgia Bulldog and will always be. Congrats to the boys for a very good season.

Granthams The Man!

January 1st, 2013
8:36 pm

It’s Great to be Georgia Bull Dawg!

The future is bright. Time to finish strong and bring in a few more quality players.

Go Dawgs!!!

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:43 pm

BearDawg = mullethead

I don’t go away. Been a real fan for many a year.

You can tolerate mediocrity. Not me.

Though that’s what we’ll be getting. Again.

Eaassyy

January 1st, 2013
8:46 pm

How tall is Russell Wilson? You don’t have to be 6′4 to be a starting qb in the NFL and make a truckload of money. And if it doesn’t work out in the league for Murray he will make more $ than all of us on these blogs either through broadcasting coaching or whatever he wants to do. Sharp good kid.

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:48 pm

Nah, too short.

SatillaDawg

January 1st, 2013
8:52 pm

Enjoyed the game, and the season, Dawgs!

Congratulations to you all…and best of luck to everyone leaving for the NFL.

Thanks for the memories. The Alabama game was a college football classic.

Can’t wait for next season!

Go Dawgs!

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:53 pm

wally
January 1st, 2013
8:30 pm

Fast forward to August 31sst 2013. Clemson’s Death Valley.. Get the picture 80,000 fans the stadium is rocking.Dogs dressed in their road uniforms mmmoving from right to left here is the kick it goes to Gurley he has one block, he has to blocks, there is an opening, he is going to take it to the house, at the 40,at he 30 at the 20, at he 10 TOUCHDOWN. seventy thousand in orange are stunned. Ten thousand Bulldogs are screaming their heads off.My goodness what a runner.Gurley has just put the Dogs on top. Well i guess i have used my imagination a little, but this could easily happen. over the years UGA has had Clemson’s number. I hope it does not stop next August. Clemson will be good. I just hope the Dogs will be bettet. The gamecocks will be in the next game or two. Dogs let us determine in our hearts to take the state of South Carolina

*********
sure. Like in 1990 when they beat usnsomething like 33-3 in Death Valley?

Or the two games in 87 and 88 or so when they won on late field goals while we just stood there and let the clock run out?

Those games?

Clemson will pummel us. Expect 35-17 at the very least.

phil

January 1st, 2013
8:54 pm

Another mediocrity-loving homer…..

Pathetic.

Skeptic

January 1st, 2013
8:56 pm

Nothing wrong with a mullet. I wish I had the hair to make one. I expect I could call mine a reverse-mullet.

Tampa Gator

January 1st, 2013
8:57 pm

Aaron Murray is SMART ENOUGH….and GOOD ENOUGH….to make it in the NFL. No doubt. If Murray returns, Georgia will have a dynamic offense in 2013. But will they have enough defense???