Halftime analysis: Ten thoughts

semerson@macon.comJanuary 1, 2013 

ORLANDO - Here's what we have to say after one half of action, with Georgia trailing Nebraska 24-23 in the Capital One Bowl.

1. The first half was basically last year's Outback Bowl packed into 25 minutes: Georgia again took a 2-0 lead (more on that later) and looked poised to run away with it. But Nebraska rallied, helped by Aaron Murray's troubles (more on those in a second), and took the lead at the half. And then a missed field goal (this time by Marshall Morgan) lets Nebraska stay in the lead. The feeling here is Georgia should have run away with this, or at least be ahead comfortably. But its porous defensively play, and mistakes by Murray, have allowed Nebraska to not only stay in it, but take the lead.

2. In spurts, Murray is either very good or very bad. He was the latter in the first half, throwing two interceptions, including one right at Nebraska linebacker Will Compton, who happily accepted the charity and went 24 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-9. That could end up being the biggest play of the game. Even Murray's biggest play, a 75-yard touchdown to Tavarres King, was an underthrow: King did a great job coming back for it, then out-ran the two flat-footed defenders. Murray obviously needs to step up his play or he's going to drop to 0-5 in the postseason at Georgia.

3. Georgia's defense also needs to adjust. It hasn't helped itself with four personal fouls, but it's pass coverage on some deep passes has been abysmal. The front seven actually doesn't seem to miss John Jenkins too much. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez gets some credit for his running ability, which has prevented some sacks. But the Bulldog secondary needs to get its head in the game a bit more. Martinez has 168 passing yards and two touchdowns. That shouldn't be happening.

4. Jarvis Jones deserves the sack record, and he got it in the first half. But neither of the two sacks he registered was, shall we say, in the classic form: Each time he was just credited with the sack because he was there when Taylor Martinez did something. The first time Martinez fell down while running near the sideline. The second time, Jones was pressuring Martinez, who threw it out of bounds and was called for intentional grounding. Okay, so it's all kind of a cheap way to break the record. But considering Jones had to play two games against triple-option teams, and sat out two other games with minor injuries, let's just call it a market correction.

5.. Hopefully, Malcolm Mitchell enjoyed Disney World. The sophomore receiver is out for the game after taking a hard hit early in the game, on a safety punt return. Mitchell didn't catch a pass in his brief time on the field. At first his absence wasn't noted very much, but it was later, especially when Georgia tried to get back in field goal position in the final minute. Rhett McGowan was the intended receiver on a lot of plays, and while McGowan is a pretty solid receiver, that speaks to the injuries suffered at that position.

6. Mike Bobo wasn't kidding about having a "big plan" for Keith Marshall. The other, less heralded member of the Gurshall tandem got the start and has been a big part of the offense. Marshall only got two carries in the SEC championship game, so part of it may be the coaches wanting to make up for that. But I think they also realized they had to be committed to the tandem effect and give Gurley some rest.

7. It's a bowl, so why not some fun? Georgia has been using the Wildcat a lot today, after using it very rarely this season. On the fourth play, the Gurshall tandem lined up together for the first time all season. Murray lined up at receiver, Marshall took the direct snap and went right. He didn't gain much after tripping up. It wasn't working at first, but Bobo kept calling it, and eventually it bore fruit: Gurley took a direct snap and went up the middle untouched for a 24-yard touchdown, giving Georgia a 23-14 lead.

8. The 2-0 score is rare enough. But for Georgia to have it happen in two straight bowls, well, I'd say that's quite surprising. Last year Brandon Boykin's safety against Michigan State made it 2-0 for awhile. This time, a blocked punt should have resulted in a 7-0 lead. But Justin Scott-Wesley, a receiver, couldn't recover the ball in the end zone, despite no one around him. Looked like he rushed it, not realizing he was in the clear. Then the ball kept squirting as four or five other Bulldogs failed to pounce on it, before finally going out of bounds.

9. This has ended up being a pretty good crowd. It's not a sellout, but given the nationwide bowl attendance issues, it's not too shabby.

10. What to watch in the second half: The good news for Georgia is that in plenty of games this year, the defense and Murray have started badly and recovered. I think that happens, and the team ends the bowl losing streak. But I wouldn't bet my life on it.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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