ORLANDO, Fla. — Aaron Murray wanted nothing more this week than to send Georgia’s senior class out with a game to remember.
The junior quarterback provided a record-setting performance to make it a reality.
Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, as the sixth-ranked Bulldogs beat No. 23 Nebraska 45-31 in the Capital One Bowl on Tuesday.
Murray shook off a pair of first-half interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and passed for 427 yards — also a Bulldogs’ bowl record — against the nation’s top-ranked passing defense. He was the game’s most valuable player on the way to earning his first bowl victory at Georgia.
Georgia (12-2) also reached 12 wins for the third time in school history.
“I don’t know what it’s like to head into an offseason with a win,” Murray said. “It’s a great feeling to get a win. It’s great for the seniors, who have meant so much to this team. They’ve done a great job of leading this team the whole season.
“To get 12 wins…That’s something special.”
Nebraska (10-4) lost its third consecutive bowl game, and finished the season with two straight woeful defensive performances. The Cornhuskers lost the Big Ten championship game 70-31.
The Cornhuskers led 24-23 at the half, but committed two of their three turnovers in the final 30 minutes.
Taylor Martinez had two interceptions and two touchdown passes for Nebraska and Rex Burkhead rushed 140 yards in his final college game.
But Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said the efficiency of Murray and Georgia on third down (finished 12 for 17) was too much to overcome.
“I thought the plan was good,” Pelini said of his team’s defensive scheme. “Third down hurt us, obviously. When were in position, it was man on man down the field. We needed to make some of those plays and we didn’t. And, you know, again, that cost us a football game.”
Nebraska drops to 12-7 against SEC opponents in bowl games.
Trailed by questions about his team’s focus following its narrow loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday was also about a team that finished 5 yards shy of a BCS title game-berth finding closure.
“We wanted to win this game to prove to ourselves that we are one of the better teams in the country,” Richt said. “I think our guys did a good job of sucking it up when they were tired…But when you make a big play here and there, it gives you a little more energy as well…We made enough big plays at the right moment.”