The Nebraska defense didn’t do anything special this season, but their performance against Georgia inside the red zone during the Gator Bowl is what gave them the 24-19 victory and a perception of some success to a mostly disappointing season.
The Cornhuskers finish the year with a 9-4 record and their first Bowl game victory since the 2009 season. With nine wins, they are also the only school along with Alabama and Oregon to win nine game or more in each of the last six seasons, but without any BCS bowls, conference titles or anything else to show for it.
Georgia got into Nebraska’s red zone seven times. Only once did they manage to get a touchdown out of it, as Hutson Mason filling in for Aaron Murray wasn’t able to crack the Nebraska defense that came up with one final play in the final seconds of the game: Arthur Lynch dropped a fourth-and-3 pass from Hutson Mason inside the Huskers’ 10-yard line, and Nebraska took over the ball with 25 seconds left in the game to clinch their win.
Nebraska had their big moment late in the third quarter, as Tommy Armstrong found Quincy Enunwa for a 99 yard touchdown. The plan was to get a few more yards as the Cornhuskers were on third and 14 on their own one yard line. At least that’s what Georgia thought the plan was, but they ended up giving the longest play in bowl history. All season long stopping big plays has been a problem for the Bulldogs, allowing more 20+ plays than they have in the previous decade.
While Nebraska still aren’t sure who’ll be their head coach next season with Bo Pellini not doing himself great service with the record and his choice of words this season, Georgia feel that with Mason running the show next season and Todd Gurley (183 yards from scrimmage) they have a shot at a very good year in 2014, unless injuries get in the way.
It makes it tougher to execute in the passing game, obviously. But I thought Hutson, as time went on and got used to the elements, did a really good job. Hutson’s a great football player, a great person, a great leader for our team. Got a lot of faith how he’ll do in the future as well.
Enuwa caught two passes for touchdowns, making it 12 for him this season, setting a new record for the school, breaking the 10 by Johnny Rodgers from 1971. Ameer Adbullah had a good day with 122 yards on 27 carries, scoring a touchdown. Armstrong threw for 163 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, completing only 6-of-14 passes.
For both teams, its now about looking towards next year. Despite the disappointing season, Nebraska have a solid team to build on for 2014, but so do Georgia. This season there were problems with defense, not to mention the injuries that crippled the offense for long stretches this season. It’s too soon to tell if Mason is going to be as good as Murray was, but Mark Richt probably has enough weapons to feel confident about next year.