Bulldogs know they can't overlook beleaguered Nebraska defense in Tuesday's Capital One Bowl
Posted on Dec 29, 2012 by Murray Poole |
ORLANDO – Everybody in Bulldawg Nation knows all about that Nebraska offense, the one that is averaging 35.1 points per game, 254 yards rushing a game (8th in nation) and also 207 yards through the air per contest.
But what you don’t hear as much talk about as 5th-ranked Georgia revs up to face the 21st-ranked Cornhuskers in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl here is the Nebraska defensive unit that will be out to put the clamps on Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell and the rest of the Bulldogs’ offense.
Sure, the Cornhuskers have been gashed several times this season, primarily by unbeaten Ohio State, who pulverized the Nebraska defense 63-38 and then by Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Badgers rushing for 500-plus yards in a 70-31 rout of the Cornhuskers.
But then Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and the Bulldogs pretty much dismiss those games, pointing out Nebraska’s defense simply experienced two bad days, much like Georgia’s defense did in a 35-7 loss to South Carolina and a closer-than-expected 29-24 win over Kentucky. They fully expect to get the kind of defensive performance the Huskers managed against Michigan, when they shut down the Wolverines by 23-9, or when they limited Minnesota and Iowa to 14 and 7 points, respectively. And coming off that embarrassing showing against Wisconsin on Dec. 1, the Georgia coaches and players know Nebraska will be primed to make a positive statement on that side of the ball in this bowl game, the Husker defenders being led by All-Big Ten selectees, senior end Eric Martin, senior safety Daimion Stafford, senior tackle Baker Steinkuhler and senior linebacker Will Compton.
“First of all,” said Bobo, “what jumps out at you with their defense is eight senior starters. I see a defense that plays well together and does a great job of matching routes and playing the match coverage that they do and have done everywhere he’s (head coach Bo Pelini) been. They’re just well coached guys. They play hard, they’re physical and it’s going to be a challenge. They’re a veteran football team that is coming off a disappointing loss in their conference championship game like we are and like Aaron (Murray) mentioned, it’s going to be about leadership and guys getting focused and ready to play,” said Bobo. “It’s another chance to compete and I expect our guys to be ready to compete on Tuesday and I expect Nebraska to be ready, too.”
Bulldog junior quarterback Murray, who may or may not be playing his final game in a Georgia uniform Tuesday, says the Cornhuskers’ defensive unit is “very physical.”
“They’re very disciplined,” Murray said. “You don’t see a lot of teams getting big plays at all on them so I think the big thing for us is when those big plays present themselves to us throughout the game, we’ve just got to make sure we capitalize on them and take full advantage. Like I said, they’re extremely physical, very disciplined and do a great job with whatever their coordinator calls.”
Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend has great respect for the Nebraska defense and says his linemen will have to be on top of their game, to enable the Bulldogs to move the football much like they did in the bitter 32-28 SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama.
“I’ve been impressed with Nebraska’s run defense in the tapes we’ve seen,” offered Friend. “Sometimes those yards (Huskers surrendered vs. Wisconsin) can be misleading. Some long runs can change some of that stuff, some runs on the perimeter where some guys made a few runs that kind of made the stats a little bit lopsided, too. I also saw that team beat Wisconsin too (during regular season) so they’re a good football team,” he said. “They’re going to be strong and physical, got a good scheme on defense, well coached and I’ve been impressed with them. I think their Mike linebacker (Compton) is a good player, I think they’re strong inside in the middle, I think both ends are athletic looking guys, and I think they’ve got good pressure packages and are sound in what they do. It’s going to be a big challenge for us."
Georgia sophomore center David Andrews just went against one great defensive front in Alabama’s and whereas the Cornhuskers’ unit isn’t ranked anywhere close to the Crimson Tide when it comes to stopping people, Andrews says if the Bulldogs’ O-line isn’t ready, they could be in for a rude awakening in the Capital One Bowl matchup.
“Nebraska definitely has a good defense,” declared Andrews. “They’ve got some big guys, some strong guys, they play in a good conference and we’re definitely going to have to come out and be ready to go. They’re a very good football team so it’s going to be a good game.
“They’re definitely a physical team,” Andrews pointed out. “They play in a physical league like we do. It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be a fun game and we’ll see Tuesday who is the more physical team. I think we went toe-to-toe with Alabama and competed well, just came up short and lost but there’s definitely a lot we can build on and stuff. We’ll see Tuesday what Nebraska comes out in and we’ll probably have to make adjustments the first couple of plays. It would be great to get these seniors a win and get 12 wins on the season and be one of the few teams in Georgia history to do that.”
Senior wide receiver Tavarres King sees the Cornhusker defense as being “very fundamental” and very well-coached.
“We know they’re not going to beat themselves,” said King. “They’re going to do their jobs and not give up the big play. Several of their guys in the secondary are very good. Their two safeties are run stoppers, they come down and stop the run. I think their corners, their field corner, is pretty good. I feel we’ve got our work cut out for us out wide and it should be a good day. Certainly, it would be neat to go out with a bang like that,” King said, commenting on his school record 205 yards receiving against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl last season. “To have an opportunity to make history, would be great. We just want to continue where we left off against Alabama. I feel like we played an extremely good game offensively and just want to continue where we left off.”
One thing’s for sure. If the Bulldogs are to find anything close to the success that Ohio State and Wisconsin enjoyed against the Nebraska defense, All-America freshman tailback Todd Gurley will have to ring up his usual 100-yard rushing day, thereby opening the door for Murray and his receivers to attack the Cornhusker secondary at will.
“I think everybody’s talking about Nebraska’s last game (against Wisconsin) but that was more than three weeks ago – I’m pretty sure they’ve done a lot to change that,” said Gurley, who rushed for 1,260 yards and a UGA freshman record 16 touchdowns this season. “Everyone has a bad game and Wisconsin has a pretty good offensive line each year and great running backs so you just can’t look only at Nebraska’s last game. Everybody on their defense runs to the ball and it’s just a great defense … great front, linebackers and defensive backs.”
Gurley said everyone on the team knows the importance of this last game.
“I think it’s been a great season,” he said. “We wanted much more out of it but there ain’t anything we can do about it now. We’ve just got this one more game and have to just take it from here. We just want to go out there and show everybody that we are the best team in the country. We want to finish in the top five and make a statement a little bit.
“We didn’t get in the BCS game or BCS bowl but I guess this is one of the highest ranked non-BCS bowls. We just want to come out and get a win, really. I guess a lot of people are saying Georgia’s not this or whatever but we just want to get the win and finish off with 12 wins.”
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