TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Brandon Boykin hopes Georgia learned an important lesson from the Outback Bowl.
“We made a huge stride this year just coming from a 6-and-7 season last year, but at the same time, the great teams finish when they’re supposed to,” the Bulldogs cornerback said after the No. 18 Bulldogs lost 33-30 in triple overtime to No. 12 Michigan State on Monday.
“The LSUs, the Alabamas, there’s a reason why they’re going to the national championship. I feel like, if we want to be one of those type teams, we’ve definitely got to finish games. We started off hot this game and didn’t finish. Once we figure out how to continually pound them and just continue to be consistent on each side of the ball, Georgia can be special.”
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Boykin sure was against the Spartans.
He returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown, caught a 13-yard TD pass and also scored a safety.
Georgia (10-4) finished on a two-game losing streak, including a lopsided loss to top-ranked LSU in the SEC championship game.
“As a team, we’re excited about the future,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We just have to use this as motivation. We had our opportunities to win this game. So, yeah, it’s going to sting.”
Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins threw for 300 yards and led a late rally to tie it, then Dan Conroy kicked a 28-yard field goal in the third overtime that lifted the Spartans.
“It was a great ballgame,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I’m sure everybody enjoyed it, except for us at the end.”
Georgia’s Blair Walsh became the Southeastern Conference’s career scoring leader with a field goal in the second extra period. But he missed a 42-yarder in the first overtime after conservative play-calling and had a 47-yard attempt blocked on the final play of the game.
“I’d trade all the points I could to just have three points for us,” Walsh said.
Michigan State (11-3) ended a five-game bowl losing streak with its first postseason win since beating Fresno State in the 2001 Silicon Valley Bowl. The Spartans overcame a 16-0 halftime deficit and scored the tying touchdown with 14 seconds left in regulation.
Cousins led a 10-play, 85-yard drive without the aid of any timeouts to wipe out a 27-20 deficit on Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown of the game in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.
Cousins was intercepted in the first overtime, giving the ball to Georgia. After the Bulldogs had a short run on their first play in overtime, Richt elected to simply center the ball for a field goal try on third down, and Walsh’s kick was wide.
“Once we did get the interception, I felt like my man would make the kick,” Richt said. “It was well within his range. I felt like he could easily make that kick and that have ended the game there if we did make it.”
Boykin helped the Bulldogs take the lead, but one of the nation’s stingiest defenses couldn’t protect it down the stretch.
“Of course I’m upset right now, you know, that we lost,” Boykin said. “Without a doubt, I’d take away my performance if we can get a victory.”
Murray threw for 288 yards and one touchdown. He had an 80-yard scoring pass to Tavarres King, who had six receptions for 205 yards.
The Bulldogs began their year with losses to Boise State and South Carolina before rebounding to win the final 10 games of the regular season. Georgia led top-ranked LSU early in the SEC title game before being dominated over the last three quarters to lose a shot at a spot in a Bowl Championship Series game.
Boykin tackled Keshawn Martin in the end zone for a safety on Michigan State’s first offensive play, converging on the receiver at almost the same time as Cousins’ side screen. The 2-0 lead stood for Georgia until Murray made his long TD throw to King, who settled under the perfectly thrown pass at the Spartans 25 and never broke stride to get into the end zone.
Less than two minutes later, Boykin brought Georgia fans to their feet when he settled under Mike Sadler’s punt at his own 8-yard line and retreated to the 5 before cutting back toward the middle of the field, finding his way through a maze of defenders and outrunning the pursuit to score on the longest punt return in Outback Bowl history.
“He’s a very dynamic football player,” Richt said.
Boykin’s second TD, finishing a five-play, 81-yard drive fueled by Murray’s 53-yard completion to King, put Georgia up 25-20. Murray’s 2-point conversion pass to Malcolm Mitchell gave the Bulldogs a 7-point advantage before Cousins went to work.
“You hate to lose,” Richt said. “Right this minute, definitely not too thrilled, but in time this one will heal. I still think that our guys had a good year, not a great year.”