Georgia head coach Mark Richt will play the waiting game with quarterback Aaron Murray, who has yet to make a decision on the NFL Draft. If he does opt to declare, he certainly exits Georgia on a high note.
Murray overcame a sluggish start to abuse the Nebraska defense for five touchdown passes, including strikes of 87, 75 and 49 and a pair of fourth quarter scores. An absurd one-third of Murray’s completions went for scores.
The Capital One Bowl was an exhibition of both sides of Aaron Murray: the big-armed gunslinger, and the risk-taker sometimes prone to make ill-advised decisions. The former, Murray’s Jekyll, shined through in the late second half when he struck for three consecutive touchdowns. Those made the difference against a Nebraska team that came in with fire.
A Cornhusker defense fresh off surrendering 70 points in the Big Ten championship game intercepted Murray twice — shades of Murray’s Hyde persona on display.
Though the differences are numerous between Murray and another former Bulldog quarterback, Detroit Lion Matt Stafford, each is similar in that way. Stafford started as a freshman — like Murray. He registered big numbers, particularly later in his career, but also passed for a low completion rate and plenty of interception. Stafford also declared for the NFL with a season of eligibility remaining.
It’s difficult to criticize Stafford’s decision: he was the No. 1 overall pick and has had a solid NFL career thus far. Likewise, Murray could go at a premium in a draft class weak at quarterback. Selfishly, I welcome another season of Murray unleashing the long ball to Georgia receivers, as he did in the Capital One Bowl.
But then, not every defense is going to be as accommodating as Nebraska’s. In wins, it was solid. Northwestern’s 28 points were the most the Cornhuskers’ surrendered in a victory. In their four losses, the Huskers gave up no fewer than 36. Today’s 45 yielded to Murray and Georgia in the Capital One Bowl were the second fewest.
Head coach Bo Pelini and defensive coordinator John Papuchis have to tap into the energy that gave Nebraska a lead midway through the third quarter and forced Murray into two interceptions and 15 incompletions. Once they do, Nebraska showed off some of the offensive prowess that carried it to 10 wins this season.
Running back Rex Burkhead departs with a fitting 140-yard performance, but sophomore Ameer Abdullah showed off some fancy feet in breaking off nearly seven yards per carry. Taylor Martinez didn’t have one of his better games against the Bulldog defense, but that’s a promising sign for the Huskers. Martinez improved by leaps-and-bounds from 2011 to 2012. Another big step in 2013 would put Martinez at the front of the Big Ten quarterback class.