ORLANDO - After some uncertainty, the Georgia football team achieved what it wanted: It got its first postseason win in three years, and probably cemented itself as a top-5 team in the nation.
Georgia knocked off Nebraska, 45-31, after rallying from an eight-point deficit in the third quarter, capturing the Capital One Bowl.
The Bulldogs finish with a 12-2 record, their most wins in 10 seasons.
This is how it went down on Tuesday:
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Aaron Murray struggled in the first half, but turned it on in the second half, finding Chris Conley for two long touchdown passes, including an 87-yard back-breaker. Murray set a school bowl record with five touchdown passes. He also set a record with his 37th passing touchdown of the season, and tied his career-high with 427 passing yards.
The defense, meanwhile, woke up after not being able to stop Nebraska. It stiffened up after a key turnover, and Damian Swann’s second interception of the game basically sealed it.
Georgia was trailing, 31-23, midway through the third quarter, when the game turned.
First, Murray hit Conley for a 49-yard touchdown on a nice downfield pass. (It was Conley’s first catch since the final play of the SEC championship game, and Conley would do no apologizing for this catch.) A play later, Murray found Rhett McGowan for the two-point conversion, and it was tied at 31.
Then the Bulldog defense, on its heels, turned its game around, with some help.
Nebraska, unstoppable on offense for so long, was driving again. But on a third-and-1, Rex Burkhead coughed the ball up as he dove forward. Georgia’s Alec Ogletree jumped on it. It was the first time Georgia’s defense was able to get off the field since midway through the second quarter.
Then Georgia forced a three-and-out on the next drive. Grantham reacted in animated fashion on the sideline as his players ran off the field.
The offense responded, the key play when Justin Scott-Wesley made a 31-yard catch, making a great adjustment with the ball in the air.
Then there was another great adjustment by an unexpected receiver: Marshall adjusted his route as Murray scrambled right, getting behind the defender, and Murray found him. It ended up being a back-shoulder catch, but not by design. Then Marshall straddled the sideline and scored to give Georgia the lead again.
Then it was the offense’s turn again: Georgia was pinned at its own 13, and facing third-and-long. Nebraska sent the house on a blitz. Murray made them pay, finding a wide-open Conley over the middle, and Conley had daylight. He went all the way for an 87-yard touchdown, the longest in Georgia bowl history.
Swann's interception on Nebraska's next drive sent Cornhusker fans to the exits. Their team fell in this stadium for the second time in two years.
Georgia fans stuck around, celebrating a bowl win for the first time since 2009.