Published Tuesday, January 1, 2013 AT 10:39 PM / Updated at 10:39 PM
Nebraska-Georgia: Tracking the offense, defense
Jon Nyatawa Omaha World-Herald

World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa takes a look at key players, plays and more on both sides of the ball during Nebraska’s 45-31 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

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TRACKING THE OFFENSE

NU star: Rex Burkhead. In his final game as a Husker, the hard-running senior totaled 140 rushing yards on 24 carries. He also caught four passes for 39 yards. He scored twice, too.

Highlight: Kenny Bell caught a 35-yard, over-the-shoulder pass in the second quarter. Taylor Martinez lofted it perfectly, and Bell held on when the defenders converged. The play led to a Nebraska touchdown that put the Huskers up 24-23.

Busted play: Martinez, rolling to his right, surveying the Georgia defense without any pressure — and then throwing an interception. It did not appear to be a high-risk call. But Martinez perhaps got a bit greedy and the pass that he tried to float over Damian Swann was picked off by the sophomore corner.

Our take: There are elements of Nebraska’s versatile offense that opponents have a hard time simulating — like the change-of-pace runners, and the tempo, and Martinez’s improvisation. And the Huskers had Georgia on its heels in the third quarter. But the same kinds of costly mistakes (penalties and turnovers) that have plagued this unit all year showed up late in Tuesday’s game. Nebraska never found its rhythm once the Bulldogs seized the momentum.

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TRACKING THE DEFENSE

NU stars: The entire defensive line. The Huskers’ front four certainly didn’t get pushed around Tuesday. They were active and disruptive for most of the game, responsible for both of Nebraska’s sacks and four of its five tackles for loss.

Highlight: Will Compton stepped in front of a screen pass and hauled in the first interception of his career. He raced 24 yards to the end zone, giving Nebraska a 14-9 lead in the first quarter.

Busted play: Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch ran across the middle of the field and no Husker followed him. Lynch caught a short third-down pass and turned it into a 29-yard touchdown to make it 9-0.

Our take: Before kickoff, it was clear that this matchup against a balanced offense with a pro-level quarterback running the show wouldn’t be easy for Nebraska. Aaron Murray was sensational Tuesday, undeterred by two early mistakes. Murray bought time when he had to and found one-on-one matchups that he liked. The NU defensive backs were often in position, but they lost too many battles. Nebraska was outmatched in this one.

About Jon Nyatawa

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008. He and his laptop, cell phone, tape recorder, pen and notebook all live in Lincoln. Follow him on Twitter: @JonNyatawa. Email him here: jon.nyatawa@owh.com. He welcomes feedback.