ORLANDO, Fla. -- No. 7 Georgia fell short of its championship goal this season, but the Bulldogs still managed to finish the 2012 season with a flourish.
The Bulldogs rallied to beat No. 16 Nebraska 45-31 in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl to clinch just the third season with 12 wins or more in program history and essentially guaranteed their first top-10 finish since 2007.
Let’s recap some of the highs and the few lows from Tuesday’s season-ending victory:
1. More offensive history
This was already the highest-scoring season in Georgia’s history. The Bulldogs completed the season with yet another record-setting outing. They shattered a Capital One Bowl record with 589 yards of total offense and quarterback Aaron Murray combined with receiver Chris Conley for an 87-yard touchdown pass that set Capital One Bowl and UGA bowl records for the longest TD pass.
Murray pushed to first in UGA bowl history with 427 passing yards and five touchdown passes, plus he established new UGA season records for touchdown passes (36, breaking his own record from last season), total offense (3,825 yards), passing yards (3,893) and touchdown responsibility (39).
2. New stuff works
Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo put the month between the SEC championship game and Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl to good use. He installed several wrinkles into the offensive game plan that produced sterling results -- including a pick play that left tight end Arthur Lynch wide open for a 29-yard touchdown catch and a direct snap to tailback Todd Gurley where he ran untouched for a 24-yard score. The Bulldogs had three touchdowns -- a 49-yard pass to Conley, the 87-yard pass to Conley and a 75-yard pass to Tavarres King -- that covered at least 49 yards against a Nebraska defense that was prone to surrendering big plays in its losses.
3. Defense stands stong late
For about two-and-a-half quarters, Georgia’s defense looked somewhat clueless against Nebraska’s powerful rushing attack. But starting with linebacker Alec Ogletree’s forced fumble and recovery against Cornhuskers running back Ameer Abdullah in the third quarter, the Bulldogs put the clamps on Nebraska’s offense the rest of the way.
1. Murray’s shaky start
For a quarter, it looked like Murray’s postseason woes might continue. He was 0-4 in two bowl games and two SEC championship games before Tuesday with four touchdowns and seven interceptions in those games. Against Nebraska, Murray had already thrown two interceptions in the first three drives, the second of which went for a 24-yard touchdown by Will Compton. But Murray recovered to go 7-for-10 for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the second half as the Bulldogs mounted their rally.
2. Run defense struggles again
Opponents’ streak of three straight games with at least 300 rushing yards ended on Tuesday, but Georgia’s defense hardly had a great day against the run. Led by Rex Burkhead’s 140 yards on 24 carries, Nebraska ran 52 times for 239 yards and an average of 4.6 yards per rush.
The third quarter was particularly problematic for Georgia as Nebraska ran 18 times for 115 yards, including a 2-yard Burkhead touchdown.
3. This is the end?
Ogletree recorded a drive-killing sack on his final college play. He announced his plans to enter the NFL draft after the game. It was also the final college game for a senior class that includes receiver King, safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams and cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith -- all of whom have a good chance to play in the NFL.
Might it also have been the finale for some of the other draft-eligible juniors on Georgia’s roster? All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (who set new UGA season records with 14.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for a loss), Murray and nose guard Kwame Geathers must make a decision by the Jan. 15 deadline.