ORLANDO, Fla. — Georgia players are tired of being bummed out after bowl games.
The Bulldogs have headed into the last two offseasons following losses in the Outback and Liberty bowls.
That’s quite a change of fortune for a program that had won four straight bowls and seven of the previous eight under coach Mark Richt before 2010.
Getting back on the winning track in the postseason is added incentive for an 11-2 Georgia team that is favored by 10 points over Nebraska in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl.
“It is definitely some motivation there,” fifth-year senior receiver Tavarres King. “We’ve lost our last two bowl games. I’m 2-2 in bowl games. This senior class wants to win their last bowl game. This team wants to win their bowl game. When you play in a bowl game, it carries over to the next season. You really honestly don’t want to have that bad taste in your mouth until you play again.”
Georgia’s current players want to avoid losing three straight bowl games for the first time since the Bulldogs lost four straight in the 1970s (1974-76 seasons and 1978).
“They know we’ve got a very serious bit of business to take care of here,” coach Mark Richt said. “In between the business time, there’s going to be some time for fun, too.”
That was a trip to Universal Studios on Thursday afternoon following a morning practice. This afternoon players have the option of going to SeaWorld or the Virginia Tech-Rutgers Russell Athletic Bowl game.
“You come down here to win,” senior snapper Ty Frix said. “It’s not a fun bowl trip unless you go away with a win.”
Georgia’s last bowl win came at the end of the 2009 season when it was shorthanded three defensive coaches who were dismissed after the regular season. Georgia rolled over Texas A&M 44-20 in the Independence Bowl.
“We went to Shreveport a couple of years ago and it was cold and we didn’t like practicing, we didn’t like hitting that much and we ended up having a great game,” fifth-year linebacker Christian Robinson said. “Sometimes you have sloppy practices. You’ve just go to show up at the right time. If we are mentally on the right page and we play hard and disciplined, I don’t think it should be a problem at any bowl game you play.”
Georgia lost to Central Florida 10-6 in Memphis at the end of the 2010 season and 33-30 to Michigan State in triple-overtime in Tampa at the end of last season.
“I know me personally I want to win a bowl game,” junior quarterback Aaron Murray said. “I haven’t won one as a starter. I know I’m going to work extremely hard to win this game. And this senior class has just meant so much to this program to bringing Georgia back to where it needs to be. I know myself and all of the rest of the underclassmen really want to send them off on the right note.”
Richt has said he would challenge the team’s leadership to finish better than the team did a year ago, but ending the season with losses the past two years hasn’t been devastating.
The Bulldogs followed up with 10-2 and 11-1 regular seasons in 2011 and 2012 and trips to the SEC title game.
“The one thing that helps is that’s a totally different team,” guard Chris Burnette said. “Those seniors are gone and sometimes there’s a big group of guys that come in. It’s usually a totally different mix. If it does end bad, you can usually put it behind you but if it does go well it can be a good springboard.”
Said Richt: “I think the bowl game’s important for bringing some closure to this season and also starting the next season, but I don’t know if it has a huge impact on your team. Last year losing to LSU and losing the bowl game and not finishing well after having that run of 10 wins I think that was some motivation for our guys. I think just how our season starts next year with the schedule is going to be a lot of motivation for our guys as well.”
Georgia opens next season at Clemson before playing South Carolina in Athens and the Bulldogs also get LSU between the hedges in September.
“You want to go out on top, you want to go out with a W,” King said. “You want to leave those young guys something to feel good about for the season to come. … People believe in Georgia again. I think people believe we’re a great team now. What better way to continue that belief than going out there and beating these guys.”