Tom's Take: Huskers get revenge vs. UGA in Gator Bowl

Nebraska needed this 24-19 win over Georgia in the Gator Bowl. It doesn’t matter that this was an undermanned Bulldogs team. The Cornhuskers had to taste victory after closing the regular season with two losses in their last three games. And the season-ender vs. Iowa was ugly on many fronts.

This win relieves some pressure on Bo Pelini. And the victory also allowed the Huskers to end a three-game bowl losing skid and enter 2014 with some mojo. This win also avenges Nebraska’s loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl last season.

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BEST OF GATOR BOWL

Best play: Facing a 3rd-and-14 at its own one-yard line, Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, Jr., dropped and heaved a pass to Quincy Enunwa for a 99-yard touchdown strike. That gave the Cornhuskers a 24-12 lead with 6:32 left in the third quarter for an offense that was sputtering.

Best player: Nebraska WR Quincy Enunwa. He caught four passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 32.3 yards per catch. The big one was a 99-yard scoring grab in the third quarter that gave the Cornhuskers a 24-12 lead.

Best moment: Trailing 24-19 and with the ball on the Nebraska 16 with less than a minute to play, Georgia was threatening to steal a win. But Bulldog tight end Arthur Lynch dropped what would have been a first-down pass to keep the drive alive.

Best tweet:

Best stat: 2-1, turnover margin in favor of Nebraska. That was a big difference in the game. The Huskers turned an interception and muffed punt into 14 points. Otherwise, Nebraska was whipped on the stat sheet by an undermanned Georgia team, which converted its lone turnover into a touchdown.

GRADES

Offense: C. The attack had just 307 yards, with 144 coming on the ground and 164 through the air. The passing game wasn’t efficient, completing just 6-of-16 passes (38 percent). And the Huskers averaged just 3.3 yards per rush.

Defense: C. Nebraska caught a break, as Georgia played without its top two receivers (Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley). And quarterback Hutson Mason was making his first career start for injured Aaron Murray. Plus, running back Todd Gurley (ankle) wasn’t 100 percent. Still, the Bulldogs controlled the ball, out gaining Nebraska, 427-307. Georgia had its way through the air with 320 yards passing, but it muted the Bulldog ground game, with 107 yards on 42 totes (2.5 yards per carry). Still, UGA had to settle for four field goals through the first three quarters, as the Huskers defense stiffened when it needed to.

Special Teams: A-. No major breakdowns in this area of the game. In fact, Nebraska’s Josh Mitchell recovered a muffed Georgia punt in the first quarter to set up the Huskers’ first touchdown. Oh, and Pat Smith hit a 46-yard field goal.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It was over when: With 3:18 left and leading 24-19, Nebraska needed to hold off Georgia one last time as the Bulldogs took over at their own 38-yard line with two timeouts. Georgia drove down to the Nebraska 16-yard line. But that’s as far as the Bulldogs would get, as a 4th-and-3 pass was incomplete. Game over.

What worked: Ameer Abdullah. The junior ran 27 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. It was vintage Abdullah. And it was his 11th 100-yard rushing game of the season. He ran for 98 and 85 yards in the two games he failed to reach the century mark. The Big Ten’s top rusher finished with 1,690 yards.

What didn’t work: The passing game. But, that was no shock. Tommy Armstrong Jr., struggled to pass all season with a 53 percent completion percentage and seven touchdowns and seven interceptions entering this game; he’s more of a runner. Playing for injured Taylor Martinez, Martinez hit only 6-of-14 passes (43 percent) vs. Georgia. But they went for 163 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. However, 99 of those yards and a TD came on one pass. So, Armstrong was 5-of-13 for 64 yards with a TD and pick without that big bomb to Quincy Enunwa.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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29 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (29 Comments)
Brad Nelson on 1/1/2014 @ 5:36pm EST Said:

I know it is futile at best to make a negative comment to the person who owns the paper and pen, but here goes: I wonder how undermanned the support for the big ten is in the big ten network and how undermanned the husker support is in the same big ten network. (There I used the word undermanned the same number of times tat you did Tom. My point is that you sound biased and disappointed that Georgia lost the bowl game. Are you that upset that both Iowa and Wisconsin lost?

Brian Balkus (@bbalkus) on 1/1/2014 @ 5:39pm EST Said:

With his win, Nebraska joins Alabama and Oregon as the only programs to have won at least 9 games every year over the past 6 years. It is just a matter of time before they have a breakout year; hopefully this win gives them some momentum heading into next season.

bigtengrad on 1/1/2014 @ 6:30pm EST Said:

Brad, he is definitely upset that Iowa lost. Just read his Iowa/LSU post. He justifies their loss because LSU is “uber-talented”. Never mind they were starting a freshman at quarterback, Dienhart claims it is OK that they lost that game. It’s how he’s written all season, drooling on the keyboard while he types about the Hawkeyes.

Todd Bjerstedt on 1/1/2014 @ 6:50pm EST Said:

I usually agree with Tom but apparently I saw a different game. I saw a hard fought game where the Huskers made the big plays. The Huskers averaged 3.3 a rush compared to 2.2. They averaged 10.2 per pass versus 8.2 a pass.I thought they played not to lose after getting up 24-12 and rightfully so. They had the lead and a QB that is young and capable of losing the game. The defense let the field shrink but played brutal in the red zone. The defense deserves an A- for holding Georgia to half their point average. Great game plan and overall play. Outstanding job Huskers!

bob jones on 1/1/2014 @ 7:19pm EST Said:

Nebraska was just as banged up as Georgia, losing two All American/All BIG caliber players for the better part of the season in Taylor Martinez and Spencer Long. Jamal Turner was likewise banged up and out of the line up most of the year, Abdullah played through injuries all year, and while in better shape for the bowl, the entire offensive line was playing through major injury problems all year, also outstanding young DE Avery Moss missed the game due to personal issues. Also, All BIG DE Randy Gregory limped through the last few games and the bowl with a bum ankle. Good win by the Huskers and much needed.

Mary Brennan on 1/1/2014 @ 8:06pm EST Said:

Dienhart’s anti – Nebraska bias has become so old and irritating. Nebraska is the only Big Ten team to win their game so far, yet I couldn’t find any positive comments that weren’t followed by a critical one, belittling the Huskers effort in this game. Get over your bias or give up this column, you are an embarrassment to an otherwise decent website. Your favorite teams choked, give Nebraska credit for winning without insulting our fine coaches, players and fans. GBR!!

Mike Dohmen on 1/1/2014 @ 8:08pm EST Said:

Really Big 10 network? Nebraska won against a depleted Georgia team but no shame in Iowa losing to an “uber talented LSU team? Georgia beat LSU. Yes they have had injuries since but so has Nebraska. It appeared this was written by the SEC Network. Nice, thanks for the support

Moonunit on 1/1/2014 @ 8:33pm EST Said:

Typical Dienhart dribble toward Nebraska, and your spot on Brad in your comment about this writer being disappointed that Georgia lost to the BIG RED. He has been consistant in his disdain for Nebraska. I will give him that. But as for objective reporting, I give this writer a big fat “F”

Hotdog Boy on 1/1/2014 @ 8:51pm EST Said:

Tom are you trying to get a job working for ESPN?

MKingHuskerFan on 1/1/2014 @ 9:00pm EST Said:

Somebody needs to proof your articles before you post them.

bob jones on 1/1/2014 @ 9:18pm EST Said:

Who really wrote this column? I know it was you, Ed Cunningham.

Erik on 1/1/2014 @ 10:35pm EST Said:

Thanks Tom for cutting to the chase and admitting you were disappointed that Nebraska won. Never mind we were severely depleted on offense including being without our all-American qb and ol and surging dt in a very moss.

I like it better when you and the BIG just blatantly ignore NU. Would you please just quit giving us any attention?

Thanks!

Roy Watson on 1/1/2014 @ 10:58pm EST Said:

As far as I could tell, every single play that during the game Georgia had the required 11 players on the field. Undermanned?? Quit making excuses for Georgia losing to Nebraska. So what if Georgia didn’t have their top two receivers for this game. It doesn’t matter. You show up to play with what you got and play ball to the best of your ability. The Huskers also had a lot of injuries with key players missing significant time this year and they showed up with what they had. Quit making ridiculous excuses for another SEC team. Scoreboard. The better team won today.

Ken Broekemeier on 1/1/2014 @ 11:01pm EST Said:

What a sad article this is. Congratulations Nebraska on beating #22 Georgia. You played a great game! I don’t understand why a BTN writer would dog one of their teams when they just beat an SEC team.

Gearld Wolff on 1/1/2014 @ 11:08pm EST Said:

What a load of crap coming from the BTN staff. Show support for the Big 10 programs or get the hell away from our conference. Dienhart is anti- Husker. PERIOD. Iowa played a depleted LSU squad and LOST. Wisky played a good SC team and LOST. Sparty held his own against a good Pac 12 Cardinal team and won. Nebraska and Georgia were equal teams in strength, record, injuries and missing pieces. Nebraska WON.. How many commentators, “writers”, bookies and trolls had Georgia by 10 points? As they say in the WWE, “I’ve got two words for you”.

sterling lathen on 1/1/2014 @ 11:18pm EST Said:

Week after week I readTom’s drivel! Why? I need a good laugh!

Mike on 1/2/2014 @ 12:04am EST Said:

Wait, Nebraska’s Defense caught a break because Hutson Mason, a redshirt junior with years more experience than Armstrong was at the helm of a Georgia team that was speculated to win by 9, ranked(honestly, who all laughed when everyone saw that Pelini ranked the Huskers at #25 in the last coaches poll? … I had a bit of a chuckle myself), and had their allstar running back come back from an ankle injury in which their coach even said that he believed him to be >90%. Considering Nebraska was without a starting Defensive Lineman, QB, Offensive Lineman, that the rest of the offensive lineman who started were running at roughly the same efficiency as Gurly, that Armstrong was coming off of an ankle injury himself and may not have been healthy, this article, none the less, the writer, is a complete joke when looking to the idea of objective journalism.

Dennis Wininger on 1/2/2014 @ 1:46am EST Said:

Wow, I am truly shocked at the attitude dripping from this article – the Husker win over the Bulldogs was a HUGE upset of a good SEC team and saved some face for the BIG X during the Bowl Games. Is it just me or does Tom think Bo needs to apologize for out coaching and his team out executing the Bulldogs? I lost a great deal of respect for Tom tonight. Perhaps BTN should consider another writer cover Husker games in the future.

huskerred on 1/2/2014 @ 3:26am EST Said:

Dienhart wrote earlier how important it was for the B1G to do well against the SEC games to bring back the prominence of the B1G. He also stated that 2 out of 3 would most likely be the best the conference could achieve; picking Nebraska as the lone loss. How’s that working out for you today Tom? Sure hope he didn’t put a lot money on his predictions…

Congrats to MSU for a great bowl game and a great season in 2013! As always Go Big Red!

Grant on 1/2/2014 @ 9:10am EST Said:

Couldn’t agree more with all the comments, Yes Georgia was injured, so was Nebraska. Two basically identical teams, in terms of record, and injuries fought it out and NU came out on top. If you want to talk about how the SEC is so good, then the people backing up should be ready to step in, but obviously they were not, but the NU backups were ready. Nebraska won the game, they beat a team favored by 10+ points. Sound a little happy, or leave for ESPN and write for that garbage.

Lonnie on 1/2/2014 @ 10:01am EST Said:

I think Mark May really wrote this column. I thought the Nebraska beating would stop or at least be reduced when we joined he BTN. I sure did not expect this kind of reporting from our own conference network.

Dave Parke on 1/2/2014 @ 11:12am EST Said:

Regarding Georgia being “undermanned”, was Georgia playing with fewer than 11 players or was Nebraska allowed to play with 2 or 3 additional players because as with yours and other expert opinions, Nebraska was a big underdog and so terrible? Hope you are offered a position with a SEC blog. The weather’s warmer than in BG10 territory. Good luck.

huskerfanbb on 1/2/2014 @ 12:32pm EST Said:

Wow. Most of these comments are spot on.

Georgia is somehow “undermanned” without their All-America calibre starting QB, but Nebraska is fully manned with their redshirt freshman instead of their own All-American calibre starting QB?
This doesn’t even include the fact that All-America lineman Spencer Long is still out.

Then, he turns around and gives high praise to an Iowa team for LOSING to LSU–an LSU team that LOST to Georgia, by the way, and who were playing without their own starting QB, as well.
I get that Nebraska had an overall mediocre season capped by losses to Minnesota and said Iowa team–but Tom can’t even give a little credit where some is due. Man up, admit you were wrong on this game, and move on.
What, is he next going to say that Minnesota gave a valiant effort against 6-6 Syracuse in that bowl game?

Jon K. Swindell on 1/2/2014 @ 2:47pm EST Said:

Eat CROW Dienhart. Go Big Red!

GVBlackshirt on 1/2/2014 @ 7:56pm EST Said:

Tom, You wrote: “Playing for injured Taylor Martinez, Martinez hit only 6-of-14 passes (43 percent) vs. Georgia. But they went for 163 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. However, 99 of those yards and a TD came on one pass. So, Armstrong was 5-of-13 for 64 yards with a TD and pick without that big bomb to Quincy Enunwa.” You cannot take “that big bomb” away.

When has anyone ever gone back in time and changed the outcome of a game by “taking away” a play or two?

Only losers make those kind of excuses.

carl on 1/2/2014 @ 10:09pm EST Said:

A win is a win. Both teams lined up and smack each other around. It was a physical game they were cracking pads and both sides were making plays. But the huskers made the ones that counted. It was a clean game no controversy. Don’t expect a husker fan to apologize for a great win… GBR.

KA on 1/3/2014 @ 12:57pm EST Said:

I prefer to watch Husker games on BTN, they do a nice job. Much better than ABC / ESPN. Tom D is an embarrassment to BTN, hopefully they take note and make a change in order to maintain good quality. He is from the same mold as Ed Cunningham, blah blah blah, nothing said of any real value, just his worthless opinion. On another note, the Georgia game was officiated very well. It was refreshing to watch a game that was called with balance for both sides, they made no blatantly bad calls. They exhibited a true understanding and command of the rules – they simply got it right. Kudos to the PAC12 crew. They are either better trained or much less biased than the BIG officiating crews.

huskerfanbb on 1/3/2014 @ 1:47pm EST Said:

I don’t think it is bias, so much, among the B1G ref crews as it is sheer incompetence. How many calls that were reviewed this year did we see overturned? They called a missed field goal good, for god’s sakes. I’m glad they were able to have those calls corrected, but how many non-reviewed, and non-REVIEWABLE calls did they screw up?
Then, the league puts them above all criticism. I get that you can’t have the losing (most of the time) coach griping about the refs in every post-game presser, but when these officials screw up, the league needs to be PUBLIC in how they handle it, what the penalties for those officials are, and how it will be handled going forward.

York1 on 1/3/2014 @ 6:23pm EST Said:

I love how this article talks about the passing game. “So, Armstrong was 5-of-13 for 64 yards with a TD and pick without that big bomb to Quincy Enunwa.”

?

Since when do we rule out certain plays and compute the yardage? That’s like saying Michigan’s average yearly temperature is 76 degrees. Let’s just rule out the months of December, January, and February.

What’s your point?