The #22 Georgia Bulldogs struggled in all three phases of a football game on New Year’s Day against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, giving up a 99-yard touchdown pass, dropping several gimmie passes, and muffing one punt that would set up seven points for the Cornhuskers in what would prove to be a 24-19 victory for Nebraska.
Georgia did not have an outstanding game as a whole against the Cornhuskers, but the team got all it could out of running back Todd Gurley. Gurley, who I said would need to be a huge part of the Bulldogs’ offense if the Dawgs were to win this contest, was quarterback Hutson Mason’s most targeted receiver in this game, and when it was all said and done the back had 7 receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown. Along with the catches out of the backfield, Gurley also got the job done on the ground, taking 21 carries for 86 yards, including a 7-yard run in the waning seconds of the game that nearly turned into the game-winning touchdown for the Bulldogs.
Despite getting great play from Gurley, the Bulldogs looked overmatched against a Cornhuskers’ squad that could have cost head coach Bo Pelini his job had they not showed up to play. Georgia’s offense never seemed to find a rhythm and get comfortable against Nebraska (whether this was due to nerves of the inexperienced Mason does not seem clear), relying very heavily on Gurley, who was admittedly not 100%.
Mason continued to lean on Gurley not only due to his play-making ability, but due to the fact that the other receivers had several big drops in this game. It is never fair to call out players for not getting the job done, but senior Arthur Lynch certainly had seen his better days for the Bulldogs. A quiet afternoon from the Dartmouth, Massachusetts native turned into a nightmare on Georgia’s last drive of the game, as the tight end dropped a pass on fourth and three that would have kept the Bulldogs’ hopes alive. It certainly was not Lynch’s fault that the Bulldogs dropped their third bowl game in the last four years; it was more like an exclamation point to a game the Dawgs honestly looked disinterested in being a part of.
Fans of the Bulldogs knew prior to this SEC/Big Ten matchup that Georgia had several fundamental portions of its game to improve upon this offseason, and, wouldn’t you know it, these weaknesses reared their ugly heads on Wednesday. Georgia’s secondary, which was responsible for Auburn’s “Prayer at Jordan-Hare” back on November 16th, gave up another doozy in this one, allowing Quincy Enunwa to get behind them for a NCAA-tying 99-yard touchdown reception, which came just one play after the Dawgs almost had Tommy Armstrong, Jr. tackled for a safety. Nebraska ended the game with a modest 307 yards in the victory, but considering the situations in which the Cornhuskers gained these yards, it is clear that Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will not have much of a vacation now that the season is complete.
A common complaint from Bulldogs’ fans is the fact that the Georgia special teams are undisciplined due in part to the unit not having a coach designated to lead them, and once again the Georgia players provided yet another example of why someone has to take responsibility for this side of the game. The Bulldogs were rolling and had the momentum early in the second quarter when a Cornhuskers’ punt was fumbled by Reggie Davis, who stepped in for Rhett McGowan and promptly gave the ball to Nebraska on the Georgia fourteen yard line. The conditions in Jacksonville were rainy and definitely did not help Davis on this play, but the fact of the matter is that the Bulldogs had some sort of thoughtless error in the kicking game in almost every game this season, which in part explains why the team had five losses. Will Mark Richt please bite the bullet and appoint someone on the staff to take care of the special team unit so I can stop bringing it up each and every time something goes horribly wrong? Looks like time will tell.
The loss to the Cornhuskers gives the Bulldogs an 8-5 record to close the season, marking the third time in the last five seasons they have failed to win at least nine games. It does not appear that any changes are on the horizon in regards to the coaching staff or players leaving early for the NFL (updates will be provided if either change), which means we should be able to coast into the offseason, keeping our eyes glued on the recruiting trail and hoping with all we have that 2013 can never happen to the Georgia Bulldogs again.
Be on the lookout for a Georgia Bulldogs Year in Review article later this week, which will look into all of the good and bad things the Dawgs experienced this season