I’ll be back with my column on Georgia’s win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl shortly. Until then, here are my three “short takes” on the game.
1. Defense underperforms but rebounds: When the season began, we were led to believe that Georgia’s defense was stuffed with several potential NFL players. If that’s true, the Bulldogs underperformed in several games. They were missing two linemen Tuesday (nose guard John Jenkins was academically ineligible; end Abry Jones was out with an ankle injury). But even then, Todd Grantham’s defense too often looked undisciplined (leading to breakdowns and penalties) and was shredded for far too many big plays. However, like in some other games, Georgia’s D made some big plays when it mattered most: Alec Olgetree forced a fumble at the Dogs’ 37, and Damian Swann had two interceptions. Nebraska, after scoring 31 points in the first 2½ quarters, was shut out the rest of the game.
2. Aaron Murray’s mixed performance: He threw a Georgia bowl-record five touchdown passes, but he probably left NFL scouts thoroughly confused. He threw interceptions on two of the Bulldogs’ first three possessions and completed only 11 of 24 passes to start the game, misfiring with open receivers. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said afterward Murray looked unsettled. But to his credit, Murray responded well to the adversity, as illustrated when he followed a first-quarter pick-six with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres King on the next play from scrimmage. Before two late-game incompletes, Murray completed seven of his eight attempts, with two of those going for touchdowns.
3. Marshall and Gurley will be story in 2013: Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, the Dogs’ two freshmen running backs, far exceeded expectations this season, and we witnessed their special talents again this game. Gurley rushed for 125 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown run. Marshall rushed for 38 yards on only eight attempts, but he also showed off his receiving skills with a back-shoulder 24-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter that gave Georgia a 38-31 lead. There won’t be any uncertainty about Georgia’s running game going into next season. And even if Murray turns pro, Gurley and Marshall figure to be the centerpieces of the offense.
– Jeff Schultz