Behind three touchdown passes of 49 yards or more by quarterback Aaron Murray, the Georgia Bulldogs wrapped up their season with a 45-31 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Tuesday's Capital One Bowl.
The junior signal-caller completed 19 of 34 passes for 428 yards and five touchdowns and two interceptions against a Huskers defense that struggled to cover Georgia's wide receivers. Murray's 87-yard connection to Chris Conley in the fourth quarter was his 36th touchdown pass of the season, which set a Bulldogs record, per The Macon Telegraph's Seth Emerson:
That's the longest TD pass in Georgia bowl history. Murray now breaks his own record for passing TDs in a season, with 36.— Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) January 1, 2013
Still, Georgia's offense couldn't pull away until the fourth quarter.
The teams played through a wild first half that featured one big play after another. Georgia started the festivities by blocking a Nebraska punt that led to the Bulldogs getting a safety. Georgia followed that up with a 10-play march down the field to take an early 9-0 lead.
The Bulldogs learned very quickly that their lead wouldn't hold up for long. Nebraska marched right back down the field, culminating in a Taylor Martinez touchdown pass to Jamal Turner. And the Huskers weren't done. Will Compton picked off Murray for the Georgia quarterback's second interception of the day and returned it 24 yards for a score to put Nebraska ahead 14-9.
All of that happened in a seven-minute period of time in the first quarter. If anyone thought that torrid early-game pace would end, they were in for a rude awakening in the second quarter. Georgia and Nebraska kept ping-ponging their way up and down the field, eviscerating the opposing defenses every step of the way as the Huskers went into the break ahead, 24-23.
As for the second half? Well, we'll just call that the Conley show.
After a Rex Burkhead touchdown run put Nebraska ahead eight points to start the second half, Georgia didn't waste much time answering. Murray found Conley on a beautiful 49-yard touchdown pass play, and the Bulldogs completed the two-point conversion to tie the score at 31 apiece.
From then on, it was pretty much Georgia's ballgame. The Huskers' vaunted rushing attack stalled, relatively speaking, and anytime they got a drive going, something would go wrong. Ameer Abdullah lost a fumble and Martinez threw an interception inside Bulldogs territory in the second half, while Georgia simply kept on chugging offensively.
Murray connected with Keith Marshall for a 24-yard touchdown and again with Conley for the aforementioned school-record touchdown.
The win capped off a magical season for Mark Richt's squad, as this was Georgia's first bowl win since the 2009 season. As for Bo Pelini, he cannot be pleased. Nebraska went from a chance at the Rose Bowl to losing its January bowl game thanks to the downfall of the team's defense.
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples didn't get a chance to watch the Capital One Bowl, but had a hypothesis on the score based on his Twitter feed:
Haven't been able to watch b/c I'm at Outback Bowl, but judging by Twitter, Georgia and Nebraska are tied 192-192.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) January 1, 2013
The official Capital One Bowl Twitter feed gave some perspective on Murray's thrilling performance:
Aaron Murray now has the longest touchdown pass in bowl history with 87 yards. Murray now with No. 1 and No. 3 in the same game.— Capital One Bowl (@CapitalOneBowl) January 1, 2013
Murray may have made some big throws on Tuesday, but Bleacher Report's NFL Draft lead writer Matt Miller didn't think the performance will translate well with pro scouts:
Aaron Murray to me is a guy who should go back to school. Can't see him in top 75 picks— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 1, 2013
As for the other quarterback in Tuesday's contest, NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah compared Nebraska's Taylor Martinez to a world-renowned Harlem Globetrotter:
Taylor Martinez is the Curly Neal of CFB— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 1, 2013
ESPN's Buster Olney usually sticks to baseball coverage, but he could not help remarking on Chris Conley's scintillating play:
Run, Forrest! ....................... (Wow, is Georgia's Chris Conley fast...)— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 1, 2013
In the end, it turned out that Georgia's big playmakers had a couple more scintillating plays in them than Nebraska's. Conley's touchdown was just the icing on top of the Bulldogs' Capital One Bowl cake.