It wasn't nearly as easy as it was "supposed" to be, but the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 45-31, in Tuesday's Capital One Bowl.
The Bulldogs, who were double-digit favorites at kickoff, struggled to stop Nebraska's offense for the first two-and-a-half quarters. The defense didn't look nearly as stout as it did during SEC play, but fortunately, the offense picked up the slack.
Even in defeat, Nebraska's performance was one that it can build on. Especially in the wake of losing 70-31 to Wisconsin, putting up a fight—against the near-SEC champions, no less—was invariably important to the very proud program.
Let's slap a grade on some of the notable performances:
QB Aaron Murray, Georgia: A+
If that was Aaron Murray's last snap at Georgia, he certainly went out in style. If it wasn't, he positioned himself as one of the front-runners for next season's Heisman Trophy.
Either way, it was a performance for the ages.
Murray finished with 427 yards passing and five touchdowns—both Georgia bowl records. What's more, he did so against a Nebraska defense that finished tops in the nation against the pass.
There was nothing dinky or dunky about Murray's day, either. The last touchdown, where Chris Conley took a screen pass 87 yards to the house, was a little inflated. But for the most part, Murray was throwing deep, accurate, NFL-caliber passes.
Coming off of a performance like this in a QB class as weak as the current one is, Murray's draft stock may never be higher. Bulldogs fans will be devastated if he goes, but they'll at least have to applaud the way that he made his exit.
QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska: B+
Murray's star shone bright on Tuesday, and unfortunately, that will probably overshadow one of the best performances of Taylor Martinez's career.
The diminutive junior quarterback went toe-to-toe with Murray for almost three quarters, beating the vaunted Bulldogs defense, surprisingly, with his arm more than his legs. He was stymied on the ground—to the tune of 46 yards on 20 carries—but made Georgia pay time and time again with his oft-criticized arm.
Martinez made Brobdingnagian improvements passing the ball this year, and Tuesday's game was a fitting coda. If he can continue his evolution into next season, he'll give Braxton Miller a serious push for conference player of the year.
Nebraska Defense: D
What a choke job by the Huskers defense this season.
Excluding its late-November trip to Iowa, where wind and ice rendered scoring impossible, here's how Nebraska's defense fared away from Lincoln this year:
|Opponent||Yards – Points (Average)||Yards – Points (vs. NEB)|
|UCLA (A)||466.5 – 34.4||653 – 36|
|Ohio State (A)||423.8 – 37.2||498 – 63|
|Northwestern (A)||397.8 – 31.5||301– 28|
|Michigan State (A)||359.3 – 20.0||361– 24|
|Wisconsin (N)||400.4 – 30.8||640 – 70|
|Georgia (N)||458.3 – 37.2||589 – 45|
|Average||417.7 – 31.9||507 – 44.3|
Allowing almost 100 yards and over 10 points more than opponents' averages is not good enough, especially at Nebraska. And on Tuesday afternoon, it was more of the same.