NCAAF Team Report - Nebraska - NOTES, QUOTES
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
ankle sprain en route to a Big Ten Conference-best 1,568 rushing yards. It's not a stretch to say that without Abdullah, Nebraska doesn't make a bowl game, given his big plays in close victories over Northwestern, Michigan and Penn State.
--Nebraksa DE Randy Gregory is listed at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, although it's more likely Gregory is closer to 240 pounds. Despite his slight frame, the transfer was Nebraska's top newcomer on defense, collecting 9.5 sacks on the season, part of his 17 tackles for loss. Coaches like to move around the versatile Gregory, at times standing him up as an outside linebacker. Gregory came from junior college, but is a sophomore two remaining years of eligibility.
--Nebraska WR Quincy Enunwa is among the most under-rated receivers in the Big Ten Conference. The senior workhorse surprisingly didn't earn any postseason conference recognition despite his 10 touchdown receptions. He's a physical receiver who cherishes blocking as much as he does catching passes.
--Georgia QB Huston Mason will make his second career start in the Gator Bowl. Mason helped rally Georgia to an overtime win over Georgia Tech in his first career start, completing 22 of 39 passes for 299 yards with two TDs and an interception. The fourth-year junior is the heir apparent to senior QB Aaron Murray, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury against Kentucky. How Mason responds to the pressure of playing in a bowl game remains to be seen.
--Georgia RB Todd Gurley is closing in on his second straight 1,000 yard season. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound sophomore has rushed for 903 yards and 10 TDs despite missing three games with an ankle injury. Gurley has also shown his versatility catching passes out of the backfield this season with 344 yards receiving on 30 catches and five receiving TDs. Gurley will face a test against a Nebraska defense that is allowing just 3.9 yards per carry this season.
--Georgia TE Arthur Lynch has put together a strong senior season for the Bulldogs with 24 catches for 390 yards. Lynch also is tied with Todd Gurley and Rantavious Wooten for the team high in TD catches with five. Expect starting QB Hutson Mason to look to Lynch as a safety valve over the middle early and often during the Gator Bowl.
--Georgia SS Josh Harvey-Clemons is starting to put things together after an inconsistent start to his sophomore season. Harvey-Clemons finished the season third on the Bulldogs in tackles with 66, with a team-high three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and one interception. At 6-foot-5, 212 pounds, Harvey-Clemons has the combination of size and quickness to make plays in the secondary. Look for Harvey-Clemons to shadow Nebraska dual-threat QB Ron Kellogg III.
BOWL HISTORY: Nebraska is 24-25 in bowl games and has lost three straight bowl games, including last year's 45-31 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. This is the first time Nebraska has faced the same opponent in a bowl in back-to-back years since facing Florida State in the Orange Bowl following the 1992 and 1993 seasons.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I want to play a good football team, and a team that has a lot of tradition. I don't know why anybody would complain. What you're looking for are good matchups." -- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, on his team's rematch with a Georgia team the Huskers played in last season's Capital One Bowl.
NCAAF Team Report - Nebraska - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Scouting the running game: Junior running back Ameer Abdullah is the heart and soul of Nebraska's rushing attack. Abdullah recorded just the third 1,500-yard rushing season in Nebraska history with 1,568 rushing yards. It's the highest single-season rushing total by a Nebraska running back since Ahman Green in 1997. When healthy, quarterback Tommy Armstrong can be a threat on the option, making Abdullah that much more of a threat.
Due to a season-ending injury to RB Keith Marshall in October, the Bulldogs have relied heavily on sophomore RB Todd Gurley (903 yards, 10 TDs in nine games) down the stretch. Behind Gurley, Georgia's RB options are freshmen J.J. Green (365 yards, 3 TDs) and Brendan Douglas (337 yards, 3 TDs). For the season, Georgia is averaging 176.1 yards rushing per game on 4.8 yards per carry.
Scouting the passing game: By the season's final game, Nebraska was playing with a third-string senior walk-on at quarterback, Ron Kellogg, and was without one of its top receivers, slot man Jamal Turner, for the final five games. Combine that with an offensive line that was ravaged by injuries, and Nebraska's drop-off in passing production was understandable. That said, the quarterbacks needed to make better decisions, and didn't, always, resulting in easy interceptions.
Given the numerous injuries to WRs during the course of the season, Georgia still managed a solid passing game in 2013. The Bulldogs finished the regular season ranked second in the SEC in pass offense at 313.8 yards per game. Georgia quarterbacks have done a good job spreading the ball around with six different receivers finishing the season with 20 or more catches. WR Chris Conley leads the Bulldogs in receptions (42) and receiving yards (605) with four TDs.
Scouting the run defense: Because Nebraska had to replace three senior linebackers from last year, it shouldn't have been much a surprise that the Huskers struggled early in the season defensively, particularly in stopping the run. Coaches tried various combinations at MIKE linebacker, and over the last few games found an answer in redshirted freshman Michael Rose. He contributed with a career-high 16 tackles in Nebraska's final game against Iowa, and assumed the leadership role needed at the position. As a whole, Nebraska's rush defense also improved over the final four games, when it allowed an average of 118.0 rushing yards, compared to an average of 182.6 over Nebraska's first eight games.
Georgia has been solid against the run in 2013, ranking sixth in the SEC in run defense at 148.5 rushing yards allowed per game. LBs Ramik Wilson (128 tackles, 11 tackles for loss) and Amarlo Herrera (107 tackles, 5 tackles for loss) have been sure tacklers for most of the season. Inside, NT Garrison Smith has been effective in occupying blockers and making plays with 58 tackles and 9 tackles for loss.