If Aaron Murray does decide to leave early for the NFL, his performance in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl seems to perfectly encapsulate his career at Georgia.
There was the shaky start that saw him throw a couple of interceptions, one resulting in a Nebraska touchdown, and then a record-setting day passing in which the Georgia junior quarterback threw five touchdown passes (and what should have been a sixth) in leading the Bulldogs to a come-from-behind victory.
And all of that against the nation’s top-rated pass defense!
Particularly impressive in his Capital One MVP performance was the 24-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter where Murray, scrambling to his right, managed to find back Keith Marshall down near the corner of the end zone and delivered a superb pass that Marshall did a great job of snatching out of the air. With the PAT, that put Georgia ahead 38-31 on a day that saw the lead change hands four times.
I’d said in my bowl game preview that if the Dogs and Cornhuskers got into a shootout, I thought the advantage would be Georgia’s, and that was based on my confidence in the big-play capability of Murray and Mike Bobo’s explosive offense.
In the end, they lived up to expectations in notching a 12th Bulldog win for only the third time in the school’s football history.
But plenty of others besides Murray deserve credit for Georgia’s hard-fought win over the Cornhuskers.
It took a while for the Dogs to get their run game going, aside from early success with the “Wild Dawg” formation, but ultimately Todd Gurley notched his ninth 100-plus yard game of the season.
The depth of Georgia’s receiving corps stepped up yet again after Malcolm Mitchell had to leave the game in the first quarter with a concussion. Chris Conley caught a remarkable two passes for 136 yards — both touchdowns — and Tavarres King made three catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. (TK should have had another but couldn’t hang on to well-thrown ball in the end zone late in the game.)
And then there was the beleaguered Georgia defense, which was shorthanded without starting nose guard John Jenkins and started out the game exhibiting the same trouble defending the run that we saw against Alabama. While dual-threat quarterback Taylor Martinez was held in check most of the day, Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead at times looked unstoppable in the first half.
I’ll be honest: I was mighty concerned when Nebraska opened the second half with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive that lasted 5:18 to take a 31-23 lead. Toward the end of that drive, the Georgia defenders already were starting to look a bit tired on a warmer-than-expected day in Orlando.
But with Jarvis Jones (who surpassed David Pollack’s single-season sack record in the game) and Alec Ogletree stepping up the pressure on Martinez and Damian Swann snagging the second of a pair of interceptions, Todd Grantham’s defense shut out the Nebraska offense for the final 25 minutes of the game in as gritty a performance as I’ve seen from a Dawgs defense in quite a while.
Most of that defense is not expected back next season, so that second-half turnaround may be something we’ll have to savor for a while.
However, the bulk of the offense that managed to keep Georgia in this game when things weren’t going so well defensively will be back next fall.
I’m definitely among those fans who hope Murray will be among them.
Feel free to share your own views of Georgia’s New Year’s Day bowl win.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg