Bulldogs shuck the Huskers, 45-31, behind Murray and Jones' record days
Posted on Jan 1, 2013 by Murray Poole |
ORLANDO – If indeed Aaron Murray has played his final game in a Georgia uniform, he made his last performance maybe his best one.
Overcoming two costly interceptions in the early going, the junior from Tampa finished 18-for-33 through the air for a whopping 427 yards and a school record-tying five touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs out of a 24-23 halftime deficit and to a 45-31 Capital One Bowl win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Tuesday.
Included among those five scoring passes was an 87-yard bomb to Chris Conley, the longest passing play in Georgia’s bowl history and also, a 75-yard touchdown strike to Tavarres King.
The win helped erase the bitter SEC championship game loss to Alabama and enabled the 2012 Bulldogs (12-2) to become one of only three Georgia teams to notch a 12-victory season.
And Murray wasn’t the only Bulldog crashing the record books on this picture-perfect afternoon at Citrus Bowl Stadium. Junior linebacker Jarvis Jones, surely playing his final game at UGA, collected two sacks in the first half to enable him to finish with a new school season record of 14.5, enabling him to top the previous mark of 14 set by also All-America David Pollack during the 13-1 2002 Georgia season. Jones also set a school record for a season with 24.5 tackles-for-loss, breaking Pollack’s record of 23.5 in 2002.
“It definitely was a tough start,” said Murray, easily named the game’s MVP. “We knew it was a full game ahead of us. We were still in the game when these plays occurred. It was great to come right back out and have a nice, whatever it was, 70- or 80-yard touchdown. He (Tavarres King) did a great job of boxing the guy out, making the catch and then the person after that to get the touchdown. So just very proud of our guys, especially on offense. Defense obviously did their thing, as always,” said Murray. “But our guys kept fighting. Definitely we didn’t make all the plays that are out there, but when you put up 45 points, I think, as we had, against a team like Nebraska with a great defense, you’ve got to feel happy about that.”
“Well, it’s more fun to win than lose, I can tell you that,” said head coach Mark Richt. “And we lost our last two bowl games and getting kind of tired of that. And we worked so hard to continue to get better from that 6-7 year. Last year we went zero and two and win 10 in a row but we just can’t finish that season out. And this year we had another really good season, win the East, and we didn’t win the SEC championship but we certainly performed a lot better but at least felt a lot better about ourselves compared to how we finished in the LSU game (last season). So now we wanted to win this bowl, to just maybe prove to ourselves, even, that we are one of the better teams in the country.
“When you make a big play here and there, all of a sudden, it gives you a little boost of energy as well,” added Richt. “We made enough big plays at the right moment.”
Jarvis Jones simply said the Bulldogs’ defense made the proper adjustments at halftime and also came out more determined to clamp down on the Huskers’ fast-paced offense in the final two quarters.
“I think, like Coach Richt said, it was the adjustments,” Jones said. “And our offense came out and Aaron and the rest of the offense, they came out punching. They made the game. They opened up the game a little bit and they gave us a chance to do a lot of stuff on defense and send some pressures and get the quarterback rattled, made them change their game plan and adjust to ours. By the offense coming out and scoring a touchdown, that allowed us to open our game plan a little bit.”
In a wild see-saw first half, the Bulldogs bolted into a 9-0 lead via a safety when Shawn Williams blocked a Cornhusker punt and the ball bounced out of the end zone and a 29-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Arthur Lynch.
But Nebraska came back with 14 unanswered points on a 14-yard pass from Taylor Martinez to Jamal Turner and a 24-yard interception return by linebacker Will Compton. The Bulldogs then swung back ahead 22-14 with 4:04 left in the first period when Murray uncorked a 75-yard bomb to Tavarres King.
Georgia would then boost its advantage to 23-14 early in the second quarter when Todd Gurley went 24 yards up the middle untouched out of the Wildcat formation. But the Cornhuskers then snapped right back to tally the final 10 points of the half to assume their 24-23 lead at intermission … the Nebraska scores coming on a 39-yard field goal by Brett Maher and a 16-yard strike from Martinez to I-back Rex Burkhead.
And when the Huskers took the second half kickoff and marched 75 yards to increase their lead to 31-23, the touchdown coming on a 2-yard run by Burkhead, it appeared that the Bulldogs might be headed for a third consecutive bowl defeat.
But, little known at the time, that was to be Nebraska’s last score of the day as Georgia put 22 unanswered points on the board to win going away.
The Bulldogs would tie the contest at 31 on a 49-yard Murray-to-Conley pass and a subsequent 2-point PAT pass from Murray to Rhett McGowan. That came with 7:26 left in the third and then, the eventual winning score came on Murray’s fourth scoring toss of the game, a 24-yarder to freshman tailback Keith Marshall, who made a sensational twisting catch in the end zone. Now leading 38-31 just inside the final quarter, the Bulldogs some three minutes later hit Nebraska (final 10-4 on year) with the haymaker as Conley took a quick slant pass over the middle from Murray, split the Cornhusker secondary and outran everyone to complete the 87-yard record scoring pass and put the 45-31 final on the scoreboard.
On a day when the defense allowed 31 points – actually 24 since the Cornhuskers had the interception of Murray for one score – the Georgia offense put up huge numbers all over the field. The Bulldogs totaled 589 yards of offense, including Murray’s 427 passing and another 162 on the ground. And, the big thing, this team didn’t quit battling after falling behind twice in the first half. Especially crucial was Georgia’s marching 79 yards to tie the game at 31-31 on Murray’s 49-yard connection with Conley and the two-point pass to McGowan … after the Huskers had sailed up 31-23 on their opening possession of the third quarter.
What Didn’t Work
As in the Alabama game, the Bulldog defense had trouble stopping the running game, allowing the quick-hitting Cornhuskers to rumble for 239 yards. The defense also allowed Martinez to throw for 204 yards. But the good thing, Coach Todd Grantham made the proper adjustments and his unit allowed Nebraska only those seven second-half points. Georgia also had costly penalties which kept Cornhusker drives alive, committing seven for a total of 76 yards.
In addition to Murray’s record showing, freshman tailback Gurley did his usual thing, churning for 125 yards on 23 carries, including his 24-yard TD gallop. Marshall added 36 yards on eight trips and snared three passes for 39 yards including his almost behind-the-back 24-yard scoring catch. King ended his Bulldog career with another sterling bowl performance, having three catches for 104 yards including the 75-yard touchdown reception. Redshirt freshman Justin Scott-Wesley stepped up with three grabs for 67 yards and McGowan, Marshall and Lynch all managed three catches each. Then, there was sophomore wideout Conley with just his two catches that went for touchdowns of 49 and 87 yards, for a total of 136 yards. Defensively, junior linebacker Alec Ogletree played his final game at Georgia (he announced on this day he was opting for the NFL draft, as expected) and responded with 13 total tackles including one sack and one forced fumble, which he recovered himself. Senior Shawn Williams followed with 11 tackles and had the blocked Nebraska punt and then came senior corner Sanders Commings and that man Jarvis Jones with eight tackles each, Jones of course setting the new sack record in the process. Damian Swann and senior Bacarri Rambo checked in with six tackles apiece with sophomore corner Swann also picking off two Martinez passes.
Now, on to 2013
With nearly all of the Bulldogs’ offensive starters returning next season, and especially if Aaron Murray is one of those, then this team should be most explosive on that side of the ball, maybe even having an opportunity to break the new school record for points, established just this season. The key to the team’s continued success, however, would appear to be a young defensive unit that will be attempting to replace some nine starters from this year’s veteran group. And, too, a rugged opening-month schedule awaits the Bulldogs in 2013, Georgia having to face Clemson on the road in the season opener and then playing host to both South Carolina and LSU before September has ended.
But, at least for the next few days and weeks, before they began working for next season, these Bulldogs just want to savor and cherish this hard-earned bowl victory.
“I think the biggest thing is getting the bowl win,” said Murray. “It’s special. It feels great to win a game. Coach Richt said it in the locker room as soon as we got in there, how great it feels to walk in there at the end of the game and not see a bunch of seniors with their heads down. I think that was the toughest thing the past two years, being an underclassman, to walk in there and to see the seniors and
their faces and that’s their last game. They’ll never wear the red and black again and they went out with a loss. So to walk into that locker room with people hugging and celebrating, jumping up and down, it’s an unbelievable feeling. So I’m feeling great. I’m happy with the victory.”
And, safe to say, the Bulldog Nation is happy with Aaron Murray. That’s why, at game’s end today, the Georgia fans were chanting in unison, “One More Year,” while hoping that the Georgia QB will return for his redshirt senior season and possibly lead the team to even greater heights in the fall of 2013.
Tagged: murray poole, capital one bowl, georgia bulldogs, nebraska cornhuskers, aaron murray, jarvis jones, mark richt, todd gurley, keith marshall, tavarres king, chris conley, arthur lynch, rhett mcgowan, alec ogletree, shawn williams, damian swann, sanders commings, bacarri rambo, taylor martinez
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