JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Wednesday’s Gator Bowl appearance was sloppy for Georgia in more ways than one.
Nebraska’s 24-19 victory over the Dogs was a result of the Cornhuskers’ offensive dominance and a Georgia defense that couldn’t seem to find any traction.
“I’m not going to use it as a crutch or say that’s what was going on, but the outside conditions weren’t the best, which we know they had to play in it as well so we can’t say that,” junior defensive end Ray Drew said.
Drew was referring to the weather, which consisted of a constant downpour of rain that wasn’t too heavy, but didn’t make playing a bowl game any easier either. The Georgia defense allowed 14 first downs, 144 rushing yards and 163 passing yards. The Cornhuskers also converted on just four of their 13 attempts on third down. The Dogs have allowed opponents to convert on 73 of their 180 third down attempts in games prior to the Gator Bowl. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said it wasn’t the third down situations that hurt his defense.
“I haven’t seen the stats, but that’s a pretty good running team. Their line is pretty good at run blocking, but I felt like we handled the run game for the most part,” Grantham said. “Third downs, there was a couple they got out there, but for the most part I thought we were okay.”
Instead, Grantham said Georgia just wasn’t able to execute on the fly.
“At the end of the day we didn’t play good on sudden change; you know on the dropped punt and the turnover,” Grantham said. “In those situations there, you’d like to make them kick field goals; at least two out of three, but we didn’t make them kick field goals on either one of them.”
On top of those crucial in-game lapses, Georgia’s defense was missing a few key players.
Sophomore strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and sophomore cornerback Sheldon Dawson did not play in the Gator Bowl due to what Georgia head coach Mark Richt called a “violation of team regulations.” There was also freshman free safety Tray Matthews, who was on the sideline the entire game.
Still, regardless of the Gator Bowl loss, Drew says he’s excited about next season.
“I’m encouraged for next season because of what I saw today. I believe we played tough,” Drew said. “These guys know what to expect. We’ve been through it all.”