Nebraska vs. Georgia: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2014 Gator Bowl

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Nebraska vs. Georgia: Score, Grades and Analysis from 2014 Gator Bowl
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

This one's for the Big Ten.

The conference no doubt got a nice boost with Nebraska's 24-19 win over Georgia in the 2014 Gator Bowl. It's the first victory for the Big Ten this bowl season and the first loss for the SEC.

Entering the matchup, it was clear this was going to be a knock-down, drag-out affair. The Cornhuskers averaged 199.5 passing yards a game, while the Bulldogs were without Aaron Murray, who tore his ACL in November. The wet, windy conditions only served to ground both offenses.   

As a result, the winning team would be the one that established the running game more, and that ended up being the Cornhuskers.

You could certainly do worse than watching a battle of Ameer Abdullah and Todd Gurley. They were two of the best running backs during the regular season and were the bellwethers for their respective offenses on the afternoon.

Abdullah finished with 122 yards rushing and a touchdown on 27 carries. CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler thinks the Nebraska running back should receive more attention for his abilities.

His opposite number wasn't so lucky. You could tell Gurley wasn't 100 percent, but he still managed to carry the ball 21 times for 86 yards. He also had seven receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.

The Nebraska offense could be encapsulated by Abdullah imploring the coaching staff on the sideline to give him the ball close to the goal line after Tommy Armstrong's sneak went nowhere. The junior running back would pound it in from a yard out to give the Cornhuskers a 17-9 lead in the third quarter.

Abdullah ran the ball so much that his jersey began resembling some sort of artistic masterpiece, according to Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer.

Whereas Abullah was always there for Nebraska, Gurley's health meant he couldn't be there for Georgia, especially late in the game. It was fitting that on the Bulldogs' final drive, Gurley looked sure to get a first down on a critical 3rd-and-10, only to come up three yards short.

The Gurley of earlier in the season would have bulldozed his way to the first down and possibly even to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

Of course, as much as the running game was successful for Nebraska, the Cornhuskers probably wouldn't have won had it not been for a major play in the passing game.

They had a 3rd-and-14 on their own 1-yard line. Almost everybody expected the them to go with a QB sneak or run inside in order to get out of their own end zone and then punt the ball away.

Unfortunately for Georgia, its secondary was of the same opinion.

Bo Pelini opted for the pass, with Armstrong connecting with Quincy Enunwa for the 99-yard touchdown pass. It was a great play call from Pelini, as the Bulldogs' corners and safeties bit hard on the run, and there wasn't a defender within yards of Enunwa when he caught the ball.

Free safety Quincy Mauger went for the big hit, but Enunwa instead bounced off and had nothing but green in front of him.

That gave Nebraska a 24-12 lead with a little under five minutes in the third quarter.

Gurley closed the gap early in the fourth quarter with a 25-yard touchdown reception, and the Cornhuskers looked like they were teetering on the brink with a 24-19 lead.

The Bulldogs only have themselves to blame, as they had plenty of chances to find the go-ahead score toward the end of the game.

Georgia first had a 1st-and-10 on the Nebraska 22-yard line. After he saw his team get eight yards on the first three downs, Mark Richt chose to go for it on 4th-and-2. Mason's pass to Rantavious Wooten was incomplete.

The Bulldogs had another chance late only to see another Mason pass fall incomplete at the Nebraska 16-yard line with 25 seconds to go.

From there, Nebraska took a knee, and it was game over. The Cornhuskers were deserved winners. While they were out-gained 416-307, they took chances at the right times and stifled the Georgia offense in the red zone.

 

Key Player Grades

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: A

Abdullah was the tone-setter for Nebraska. If he would have had a bad game, the Cornhuskers could have gotten run out of the stadium. Armstrong only attempted 14 passes, eight of which were incompletions, so it was imperative that Nebraska could establish a steady presence on the ground.

Time and again, Abdullah was there to move the ball and eat up the clock.

 

Hutson Mason, Georgia: B

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

The conditions in Jacksonville weren't conducive for a strong passing performance, but Hutson Mason did his best to keep Georgia in it. The junior QB finished with 320 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 21-of-39 passing.

Taking into account all the circumstances, Mason arguably performed above expectations.

 

Todd Gurley, Georgia: B

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Let's not be too tough on Gurley. He clearly wasn't healthy yet gave a strong performance. Even at 70 or 80 percent, he was a handful for the Nebraska defense. Gurley was both a threat on the ground and through the air.

Unfortunately, he wasn't able to come up with the big plays when the Bulldogs needed them the most.

 

What's Next?

Nebraska built some strong momentum for 2014. In addition, Bo Pelini looks much more assured as head coach. Had the Cornhuskers lost, there may have been some talk about him being on the hot set. That's not a problem anymore, though.

Perhaps that's the case for Mark Richt. Sure, Georgia was hammered by injuries, but many Bulldogs fans may look at a final record of 8-5 and expect more.  

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