The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 45-31, in the 2013 Capital One Bowl. Quarterback Aaron Murray broke a 31-31 tie in the fourth quarter and led the Dawgs to victory with a record-setting passing performance.
"I'm just really thankful for the victory," said Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt after the game. "Very impressed with Coach Pelini's team. They definitely were well prepared, played extremely hard."
It wasn't the game either team expected, but the 59,712 in attendance at the Florida Citrus Bowl were treated to a classic. A wild start saw the highest-scoring first quarter in bowl history (30 points total), including a safety and an interception returned for a touchdown. The teams went in at the half with the Cornhuskers holding a 24-23 lead.
The back-and-forth scoring continued in the third quarter, sending the game into the final 15 minutes with the score knotted at 31. Two big plays defined the game from there. With the Huskers driving towards another score, Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah reached for a big first down and Georgia's Alec Ogletree knocked the ball loose. Ogletree recovered the fumble and shut down the Huskers' drive.
Two drives later, Murray drove the Dawgs downfield, taking advantage of big third down conversions. He capped off the drive with a stunningly-placed throw that only Keith Marshall could reach for an acrobatic 24-yard strike.
"A lot of stuff came down to third down and then their guys just made plays on stuff," said Nebraska linebacker Will Compton. "They made more plays than we did at the end of the day."
That was never more evident than on Georgia's final score, a simple screen pass on third and 12 that receiver Chris Conley turned into an 87-yard touchdown, the longest in bowl history.
"We were right there until the long pass play, 'til the 87-yarder," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said.
The long touchdown was just one part of a record-setting day for Murray, who was named game MVP for his performance. He finished at 18 for 33 for 427 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. The touchdowns and the 87-yard pass to Conley are both Capital One Bowl and Georgia bowl records. Murray also set a school record with 3,893 passing yards on the year. As a team, the Dawgs set bowl records for points (45) and total offense (589).
"It was an awesome game," Murray said. "I don't know how it feels to head into an offseason with a win, so it's a great feeling to get a win."
Despite some pundits expecting a blowout, the Nebraska Cornhuskers held their own in the game. The nation's top pass defense forced both of Murray's two interceptions in the first quarter, and Compton's pick-six was the first in the bowl since 1999.
"I think we've proven we can play with any football team in the country," said Pelini.
Husker senior running back Rex Burkhead was a workhorse all afternoon. He finished with 24 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown while also catching four passes for 39 yards and another score. It was an impressive statistical game for one of the most beloved Huskers in recent memory, even if he was unable to finish with a win.
"Rex played the way he alwaysdoes, like he did for four years: with passion," Pelini said. "He's a tremendous football player, a tremendous human being."
With the loss, the Huskers fall to 0-3 in the Capital One Bowl. Nebraska finishes the year at 10-4, tied for their best record in the Bo Pelini era.
Georgia improves their record to 4-1-1 and have won four straight (all vs. Big Ten opponents). The Bulldogs finish their season with a 12-2 record. The 2012-13 Dawgs are only the third Georgia squad to win 12 games in a season.