Huskers close with tough loss in Capital One Bowl

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 01, 2013
The last time Nebraska took the field, its own shortcomings ended with one of the most disappointing losses in its history. The Cornhuskers' 45-31 loss to Georgia in Tuesday's Capital One Bowl did little for the healing process. Quarterback Aaron Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, as the sixth-ranked Bulldogs sent No. 23 Nebraska to its third straight bowl loss. It was a particularly stinging defeat for the Cornhuskers (10-4), who finished the season with two straight losses - both with woeful defensive performances. Nebraska is just a month removed from losing 70-31 to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 1. The 591 yards of total offense that Georgia posted in its win Tuesday were the most Nebraska has ever allowed in a bowl game, passing the previous high of 518 by Alabama in the 1966 Orange Bowl. ''We didn't win the football game. At the end of the day that's what we're about around here,'' Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ''They didn't sit there and dwell on what happened in the Big Ten title game but ... we didn't get it done and that's what we're about in this program, is to win football games. ''But I thought as far as how they responded to what happened in that game, I thought they did that.'' Murray shook off a pair of first-half interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and passed for 427 yards - also a Bulldogs bowl record - against the nation's top-ranked passing defense. He was the game's most valuable player on the way to earning his first bowl victory at Georgia. Georgia (12-2) also reached 12 wins for the third time in school history. The Cornhuskers led 24-23 at the half, but committed two of their three turnovers in the final 30 minutes. Taylor Martinez had two interceptions and two touchdown passes for Nebraska, and Rex Burkhead rushed for 140 yards in his final college game. Pelini said the efficiency of Murray and Georgia on third down (12 for 17) was too much to overcome. ''I thought the plan was good,'' he said of his team's defensive scheme. ''Third down hurt us, obviously. When we're in position, it was man on man down the field. We needed to make some of those plays and we didn't.'' Nebraska drops to 12-7 against SEC opponents in bowl games. Trailed by questions about his team's focus following its narrow loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday was also about a team that finished 5 yards shy of a BCS title-game berth finding closure. Nebraska's offense finished with 443 total yards, but the Bulldogs' defense was stingy when it needed to be. They sacked Martinez five times, with junior All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones notching two. Damian Swann had both Georgia interceptions. With his two sacks, Jones set a single-season record with 14.5. He will now decide in the coming days whether or not to enter the NFL draft. Murray found Keith Marshall free near the sideline for a 24-yard touchdown pass that gave Georgia a 38-31 lead with 14:52 to play. Following a Nebraska punt, Murray then hit Chris Conley for a short pass in space over the middle. Conley outran the Cornhuskers defenders for an 87-yard score. That play came after a 49-yard touchdown catch by Conley that helped Georgia tie the game in the third quarter. Nebraska clung to a 24-23 lead at the half, taking back the advantage late in the second quarter via a 16-yard strike from Martinez to Burkhead. After a pair of early turnovers, Murray seemed to be getting Georgia's offense back on track, as the Bulldogs punctuated a four-play, 38-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley to make it 23-17. Both Bulldogs turnovers came via Murray interceptions as the nation's top-ranked passing defense crowded Georgia's receivers and disguised their coverage schemes. Gurley helped open things up, though, rushing for 81 yards in the opening 30 minutes. Nebraska also allowed Georgia's defense to pick up three sacks, which thwarted some promising Cornhuskers drives. ''Their guys just made plays on stuff,'' Nebraska senior linebacker Will Compton said. ''Our guys were there but, yeah, I mean they made more plays than we did at the end of the day.'' Nebraska's defense didn't need long to force the game's first turnover, picking off a Murray pass on Georgia's opening drive of the game. The Cornhuskers went three-and-out on their first offensive touch, and were forced to punt. But that attempt by punter Brett Maher was blocked by the Bulldogs' Shawn Williams. There was a scramble for the ball in the end zone, but it trickled out of the back for a safety. The Bulldogs then went up 9-0 their ensuing possession following the free kick, capping an 80-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass by Murray to Arthur Lynch. Nebraska's offense finally got going on its next touch, responding with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Jamal Turner. The Cornhuskers' defense then made with 14-9 when Compton came up with their second interception in the half on Murray and returned it 24 yards for the score. Regardless of how their final two games ended, Pelini said that the departing senior class holds a special place in program history. The Cornhuskers have won at least nine games in each of his first five seasons as coach. ''When these guys came in, the program wasn't in very good shape at that point and these guys have been a big part of getting it back to where it is,'' Pelini said. ''Is it where we want to be? No. We want to win a national championship ... But they represented this program the right way ... And for that, I think everybody associated with Nebraska football owes them a thanks.'' --- Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower .
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