Editor’s note: For the next three Mondays, we’ll review three key plays from Georgia’s Capital One Bowl win against Nebraska with Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and examine why those plays might matter for the Bulldogs moving forward.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Our first play is Murray’s 75-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tavarres King in the first quarter, which gave Georgia a 16-14 lead.
Here’s the breakdown:
The score: Nebraska 14, Georgia 9
The situation: Georgia has first-and-10 at its own 25 with about four minutes left in the first quarter
Play breakdown: King is lined up to Murray’s left at the snap, with Nebraska cornerback Andrew Green playing tight coverage at the line of scrimmage. Murray fakes a handoff to tailback Todd Gurley and drops back to throw deep. King breaks free from Green on a post route, and although Murray’s pass is slightly underthrown, King shields Green from the ball and hauls in the pass at Nebraska’s 27 before sprinting away for a momentum-breaking touchdown.
“It just ended up being a couple of yards underthrown and he did a great job of pretty much just boxing the guy out and making the catch and then finishing off the last, I think, 20 or 25 yards to get in the end zone,” Murray said.
Why it mattered: Nebraska had rallied from an early 9-0 deficit and took the lead on the previous play from scrimmage, when Cornhuskers linebacker Will Compton intercepted a Murray pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown to erase all of Georgia’s early momentum.
Murray got off to a bit of a shaky start with interceptions on two of Georgia’s first three drives, but he rallied in a big way to finish with 427 yards and five touchdowns. King’s touchdown helped kickstart that record-setting performance.
“They took the lead and over on the sideline, [offensive coordinator Mike] Bobo got on the headsets to me and said, ‘You good?’ I was like, ‘I’m fine.’ He said, ‘Do you want to run it or do you want to throw it?’ and I said, ‘Let’s just air it out. Let’s go for it,’ ” Murray said. “The next play, right after the kickoff return first play, he calls a deep post for Tavarres. They played the coverage we knew they would, he beat the corner over the top and I just threw it as far as I could and he caught it and touchdown.
“It was big. Not only was it a big play, great play, but also just the feeling was the momentum was shifted after the pick six and to get the momentum right back after that was huge for us to start the game off.
Playing it forward: Nebraska entered the game with the nation’s top pass defense, and Murray absolutely torched the Cornhuskers, continuing his turnaround against strong defenses that started in the second half against Florida.
After earning his first bowl win as a starting quarterback, Murray believes that win impacted Georgia’s offseason and built confidence that will carry over into this fall.
“Definitely it was a great game -- our first bowl win in three years,” Murray said. “It was a great feeling to get a bowl win, to head into an offseason with some momentum. ... Guys are confident, guys are feeling great after the season, especially after a tough loss against Alabama [in the SEC championship game]. To come back and win that game has really propelled us into a, like I said, a great offseason.”