Gator Bowl features pair of big-time running backs
Georgia and Nebraska are playing with backup quarterbacks – all
the more reason to focus on two of the top running backs in the
Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah could make
the Gator Bowl a ground-and-pound celebration on New Year’s
Gurley, a 6-foot-1, 232-pound sophomore, has 903 yards rushing
and 10 touchdowns despite missing three-plus games with an ankle
injury. He needs 93 yards on the ground against the Cornhuskers on
Wednesday to become the third player in school history with
consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Herschel Walker (1980-83) and
Knowshon Moreno (2007-08) also accomplished the feat.
Abdullah, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound junior, has 1,568 yards and
eight touchdowns. Only three Cornhuskers – Mike Rozier, Ahman Green
and Lawrence Phillips – have enjoyed better single seasons than
”There’s no doubt they’re both great backs,” Nebraska coach Bo
Pelini said. ”They’re different. They have different styles,
obviously built differently. … But great players come in a lot of
different shapes and sizes and a lot of different skill sets.”
The 23rd-ranked Bulldogs (8-4) and Cornhuskers (8-4) likely will
rely on both in the Gator Bowl, a rematch of last year’s Capital
One Bowl in Orlando.
Georgia is playing its second consecutive game without four-year
starter Aaron Murray, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in
his left knee against Kentucky on Nov. 23. Nebraska’s Taylor
Martinez, meanwhile, was limited to four games this season because
of a left foot injury.
Without Murray, Gurley ran 20 times for 122 yards and three
touchdowns in a 41-34 double-overtime victory against Georgia Tech.
He also caught four passes for 36 yards and a score.
”We have a lot of respect for Gurley,” said Pelini, whose
defense allowed Gurley to run for 125 yards and a touchdown last
year. ”He’s a heck of a football player with his size and his
strength. He can do a lot of different things in the running game
and the passing game.”
So can Abdullah, who has 51 career receptions for 421 yards and
”He’s a solid dude, a real tough, physical runner,” Georgia
defensive end Garrison Smith said. ”The guy can really play
football, a hard-nosed guy, gets after it, has great vision, can
cut back. We’ve got our hands full. He’s a problem `cause he’s such
a talented back.”
Aside from the star running backs, here are five things to know
about Georgia and Nebraska heading into the Gator Bowl.
KEY INJURIES: Not only did both teams lost QBs, the offenses
were devastated by injuries. Georgia lost running back Keith
Marshall as well as receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Michael
Bennett. Nebraska played much of the year without All-Big Ten guard
Spencer Long and receiver Jamal Turner. ”When you face things like
that – tough times as the season goes on – winning eight games
isn’t easy,” Pelini said. ”I don’t think people understand that
or realize that.”
SUSPENSIONS: Georgia will be without safety Josh Harvey-Clemons
and cornerback Sheldon Dawson, both suspended for violating team
rules. It’s the second suspension for the Harvey-Clemons, who also
sat out the season opener against Clemson for violating the
athletic program’s marijuana-use policy.
MASON’S ENCORE: With Murray out, junior Hutson Mason will make
his second career start. Mason completed 22 of 36 passes for 299
yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, against Georgia
Tech. ”That’s why you come to Georgia: to play these types of
games,” Mason said.
GREGORY STANDS OUT: When Georgia watched Nebraska on video,
defensive end Randy Gregory stood out – and not just because he’s
6-6 and 255 pounds. Gregory leads the Big Ten with 9 1/2 sacks,
stops that earned him the team’s defensive MVP award. ”Gregory is
about as close as you can get to an SEC defensive end,” Georgia
tight end Arthur Lynch said. ”It will be a personal challenge for
BOBO FINALE? Richt declined to say whether offensive coordinator
Mike Bobo has spoken with Georgia Southern about its head coaching
opening. ”The only thing I’ll comment on that is I think it’s a
compliment to Georgia, to Mike Bobo,” Richt said. ”When people do
excellent work, people notice it. … So I’m not shocked that
Mike’s getting some attention in that regard.” Under Bobo, Georgia
is on pace to set school records for scoring and total offense for
the second straight season.