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.
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 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.
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.
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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