ATHENS, Ga. -- Let’s take a look at three key plays from No. 7 Georgia’s 45-31 win against No. 16 Nebraska in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl.
Lynch rolls off McGowan’s pick
The score: Georgia led 2-0 in the first quarter
The situation: Georgia faced third-and-8 at Nebraska’s 29-yard line with 8:02 left in the first quarter.
Why it worked: Nebraska’s defense was slow to pick up tight end Arthur Lynch as he slipped across the middle and receiver Rhett McGowan's pick against Nebraska’s Charles Jackson left Lynch wide open as he caught the ball and rumbled 29 yards for Georgia’s first touchdown.
The breakdown: McGowan, Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley were bunched to the right and Lynch was attached to the left end of the line at the snap. He quickly slipped across the middle on a shallow pass route and Jackson -- who started the play lined up over Lynch -- was slow to follow. As he broke to chase Lynch, McGowan blocked his path and allowed Murray to hit his tight end at the 26. As Lynch turned upfield, there wasn’t a Cornhusker within the zip code. He ran untouched to the end zone, outracing Daimion Stafford to the goal line in the final yards of his trip.
What it means: Lynch and Jay Rome picked up their production in the second half of the season, indicating that the tight end position should be back to its traditional spot as a vital part of Georgia’s passing game next season.
Gurley from the Wildcat
The score: Georgia led 16-14
The situation: The Bulldogs faced first-and-10 at Nebraska’s 24 with 10:39 left in the second quarter.
Why it worked: Two Nebraska defenders ran themselves out of the play and Georgia’s offensive line did a great job of sealing a hole for Todd Gurley to break loose for a touchdown.
The breakdown: After scrambling for a first down, Murray lined up to the right at receiver alongside Conley and Tavarres King. That left Gurley alone in the backfield to take a direct snap from center David Andrews. Gurley broke left after catching the snap, following the pulling Lynch and right guard Chris Burnette, while Andrews and right tackle John Theus walled off the right side of the line.
Nebraska’s Will Compton and P.J. Smith read the run to the left, but both of them overran the play, as they were at the end of the line when Gurley made his cut between left guard and left tackle. Compton tried to recover, but left tackle Kenarious Gates cut him down as he attempted to reach Gurley as he broke through the hole untouched. In fact, he raced 24 yards for a touchdown, beating Stanley Jean-Baptiste to the end zone.
What it means: The touchdown was Gurley’s 17th rushing score of the season (a UGA freshman record) and 18th overall, capping one of the best seasons by a running back in school history. Considering how much of the offensive personnel returns next season, the historic freshman season indicates Gurley could easily become an All-American as a sophomore.
“There Goes Conley!”
The score: Georgia led 38-31
The situation: The Bulldogs faced third-and-12 from their own 13 with 11:15 to play.
Why it worked: Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo counteracted a Nebraska blitz by slipping a screen to Conley that broke for an 87-yard insurance touchdown.
The breakdown: Lynch, Conley and King lined up to the right as Georgia faced a third-and-long situation from deep in its own territory. Bobo anticipated the blitz and called the screen to Conley, which proved to be a perfect call for the situation.
Lynch engaged cornerback Ciante Evans with a block -- TV analyst Jesse Palmer questioned whether it was offensive pass interference -- just as Conley was breaking toward the middle of the field to catch the ball at the 11. That block, plus right guard Gates’ knockdown of Stafford, helped Conley break into the middle without another Cornhuskers defender in the vicinity. Once he started moving in a straight line, Conley showed off his speed in racing 87 yards for the score and beating Josh Mitchell to the goal line.
What it means: Georgia’s final touchdown of the 2012 season -- the highest-scoring and most prolific offensive season in program history -- was also its longest. One final big play -- with a sophomore scoring the touchdown and two juniors who will return in 2013 springing him with blocks -- was a fitting cap to a record-setting season and a good indicator of continued offensive success in the fall.