New Year’s Day is the best day for a college football player to make a statement. Aaron Murray made such a statement in the Georgia Bulldogs‘ 45-31 Capital One Bowl win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Murray threw for over 400 yards and five touchdowns in helping the Bulldogs pull away in what was a shootout for the first 45 minutes of play.
This was truly a “wow” performance from Murray who played in a way that embodied the pent up frustration that his teammates must have still felt after the Bulldogs’ SEC title game loss, specifically the circumstances surrounding the end of that game. Murray made sure that there would be no last-second climactic actions by schooling the Cornhuskers’ secondary and helping the Bulldogs gain a lead that they couldn’t lose.
The Bulldogs’ defense didn’t give Murray much assistance in this game. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead had huge games for the Cornhuskers resulting in the Bulldogs giving up two separate nine-point leads in the first half. In the second half, the Bulldogs found themselves down by eight early in the third quarter before Murray fully took over the game.
Murray started slow with two quick interceptions, one of them returned for a touchdown that put the Cornhuskers ahead early. It turned out that was Murray getting any sloppiness he brought with him to Orlando out of his system, because it was smooth sailing from then on.
Murray threw touchdown passes of 29, 75, 49, 24, and 87 yards in the game. That final one was a Capital One Bowl record long touchdown pass.
Murray’s first touchdown was a nice somewhat short pass over the middle to tight end Arthur Lynch who ran straight ahead into the end-zone without a Cornhusker getting too close to him. Keith Marshall didn’t do a whole lot of rushing in the game, but his 24-yard TD catch early in the fourth was a scooping catch that Marshall made with a Cornhusker near him and little room between himself and out-of-bounds.
Two of Murray’s three long touchdown passes showed him at his best in terms of reading a defense and putting the ball exactly where his receivers needed it to be. In the case of Chris Conley‘s 87-yard touchdown, it was Murray setting things up perfectly. Murray hit Conley with a pass over the middle and as it turned out, there was nothing other than field between Conley and the end-zone. It was bizarre how wide open the field was on this play. But it happened that way because the Cornhusker’s secondary and linebackers were all on either side of the field and none were covering the middle once Conley caught the short pass from Murray.
If Murray decides to leave the Bulldogs to go pro, this was a big statement as to what he could be capable of at the next level. If he decides to stay and take his shot at leading his team to the national championship game, it was a big statement to the rest of college football. Either way it was the best quarterback performance of the bowl season up to this point. And if nothing else, it was a form of redemption for Murray after that tough loss at the beginning of December.