After Wisconsin and Montee Ball ran all over Nebraska in a Big Ten title game rout, one of the top storylines of the Capital One Bowl matchup became how Georgia’s “Gurshall” could have a ball on New Year’s Day.
The flipside of that is this: Can the Bulldogs defense slow down a Nebraska ground game that ranks eighth in the nation?
The Cornhuskers might be looking forward to the matchup, too, after Alabama set a Southeastern Conference championship game record with 350 rushing yards in a 32-28 victory.
“We’ve had some trouble with the rushing game lately, so we need to make sure we can handle that,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Georgia’s defense was stout down the stretch of the regular season, allowing an average of 8.6 points per game in the five games heading into the title game, but the Bulldogs are still on pace to finish with its most rushing yards allowed — 177.8 — since the 1994 team gave up 205.8.
Playing triple-option teams in Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech didn’t help the numbers for the Bulldogs’ run defense. But Georgia also allowed 230 to South Carolina, 206 to Kentucky and 350 to the Crimson Tide.
“Look at the difference between the Kentucky game and the Florida game for us this year;
you never know what team you’re going to get,” linebacker Christian Robinson said of holding Florida to 75 rushing yards in a 17-9 win over the Gators a week after the Kentucky game. “We can’t go into the game thinking we’re going to dominate because we have a strong running game.”
Georgia averages 184.1 yards rushing per game behind freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall — the duo dubbed “Gurshall.”
Ball rushed for 202 of the Badgers’ 539 rushing yards in a 70-31 blowout of the Cornhuskers. Nebraska, however, was the Big Ten’s top rushing offense at 254.5 yards per game.
“We have something to prove, why not?” nose guard John Jenkins said. “It’s a game of competitors. We don’t want anybody to make their stats on you. I’m pretty sure they’ll feel the same way. They don’t want to be known as somebody to get a bunch of stats on. That just hurts your pride.”
I-back Ameer Abdullah leads the Cornhuskers with 83.8 yards per game rushing, but quarterback Taylor Martinez is just as much of a threat. He averages 74.9 yards per game and had a spectacular 76-yard touchdown run through the Wisconsin defense on a scramble in the championship game.
Asked about the Bulldogs’ inability to slow down Alabama’s running game behind its talented line and tailbacks Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon, defensive end Garrison Smith said the Crimson Tide has “got some really good players and I guess all credit is due to Alabama.”
Linebacker Amarlo Herrera said it was a matter of physicallity.
“They did good in that phase of the game,” Herrera said. “In the running phase, they won.”
Jordan Jenkins, Georgia’s freshman outside linebacker, said the Bulldogs defense played “too tight” on the Alabama offensive linemen and “we weren’t able to get off the linemen and make the tackle on Lacy and Yeldon coming through the inside.”
Richt said Georgia could have made some stops if it had “just wrapped up better.”
Georgia’s defense gets one final chance to do that in the bowl game.
“We’re going to get prepared in a way so hopefully that doesn’t happen where we give up tons of yards again,” Robinson said. “We should have been better and we have to be better this last one.”