As you know, the Georgia Bulldogs will be facing the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day. This will be the second meeting between these two teams; the first was in the 1969 Sun Bowl. Furthermore, this will be the Bulldogs’ sixth postseason contest in Orlando; the first two were in the 1974 Tangerine Bowl and the 1984 Citrus Bowl. This brings us to the Red and Black’s third outing in the vicinity of Disney World, in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day 1993.
After being a January 1 (or January 2, when New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday) bowl game from the 1946 through 1957 seasons, the Tangerine Bowl moved permanently to December starting in 1960, and the contest in Orlando continued to be scheduled close to Christmas until the Citrus Bowl moved back to January, starting with the 1986 season.
The quality of the matchups began improving at about the same time, as the postseason tilt featured two ranked opponents for the first time in 1985, and the Citrus Bowl paired top 20 teams routinely thereafter. The Bulldogs, who had faced a 15th-ranked foe as an unranked team on Georgia’s two previous trips to Orlando, entered the outing at the end of the 1992 season as the country’s eighth-ranked outfit, and the Red and Black were to face the No. 15 Ohio St. Buckeyes.
Led by future ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit and Robert Smith, John Cooper’s Buckeyes came into the game as a good, but not great, squad looking for its first postseason victory since the autumn of 1986. October losses to the Wisconsin Badgers by four and to the Illinois Fighting Illini by two marred the team’s 8-2 start, but a measure of redemption was attained when No. 17 Ohio State tied the sixth-ranked Michigan Wolverines, whom the Buckeyes had not beaten since the final year of Earle Bruce’s tenure in 1987.
The Big Ten runners-up were sent to the Citrus Bowl to meet a Georgia club that had tied for the inaugural SEC East crown but been left out of the newly-minted conference championship game by virtue of a two-point loss to the Florida Gators. That setback, coupled with a three-point defeat sustained at the hands of the freshly-established division rival Tennessee Volunteers, left Ray Goff’s talent-laden Bulldog squad sitting at 9-2, with a top ten ranking and a double-digit win tally on the line in Orlando.
Georgia began the game in a fashion former head coach Vince Dooley would have found to his liking, embarking on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock before culminating in a Garrison Hearst touchdown scamper. Smith later answered Hearst’s one-yard scoring plunge with a three-foot rush to paydirt of his own, tying the contest at seven points per side just 77 seconds prior to halftime.
Andre Hastings brought back the second-half kickoff for a 49-yard return, then Hearst proceeded to cover 45 yards on four carries to give the Athenians a 14-7 lead. Later in the third quarter, a poor Georgia punt set up the Buckeyes at the Bulldogs’ 33 yard line, and Ohio State cashed in from there, as Smith responded to Hearst’s five-yard touchdown run with a five-yard touchdown run.
The Big Ten team seized the momentum with a 45-yard pass from Herbstreit to Smith that carried the Ohioans inside the red zone, but the Classic City Canines recovered a Herbstreit fumble and proceeded to cover 80 yards in eleven plays. Frank Harvey capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Bulldogs out in front for good by a 21-14 margin. The Buckeyes’ last desperate possession ended with an interception in the end zone to seal Georgia’s first bowl victory in Orlando.
Though the final score was close, the game really wasn’t. The Bulldogs led in first downs (26-18), rushing yards (234-202), and passing yards (242-110). Hearst (163 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries) outperformed Smith (113 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries), while Eric Zeier (21 for 31 for 242 yards) outdueled Herbstreit (eight for 24 for 110 yards). Hastings hauled in eight receptions for 113 yards in what would prove to be Hearst’s and his final game with the Red and Black. Georgia’s first ten-win season since 1983 was rewarded with a No. 8 final ranking in both major polls.