By now, I’m sure you know the drill, but, just in case you don’t, here’s the deal: The Georgia Bulldogs will be facing the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day 2013, so I’m taking a look back, both at Georgia’s only previous meeting with Nebraska in the 1969 Sun Bowl and at the Bulldogs’ previous postseason trips to Orlando for the 1974 Tangerine Bowl, 1984 Citrus Bowl, 1993 Citrus Bowl, and 2004 Capital One Bowl.
Prior to this point, of course, the ‘Dawgs had received bowl bids to Orlando at a rate of once a decade, making one trip each in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s before making what appeared to be Georgia’s obligatory trip for the aughts at the end of the 2003 campaign. However, the Red and Black would return to the Capital One Bowl to conclude the 2008 season, as well; as a matter of fact, that game was covered here at the time.
Both the 16th-ranked Bulldogs and the 19th-ranked Michigan St. Spartans arrived in Orlando sporting 9-3 ledgers. Though the Spartans had notched victories over rivals Michigan and Notre Dame, they fell to the two ranked teams they faced, Ohio State and Penn State, as well as losing the season opener at California. Georgia, the nation’s preseason No. 1 team, had proven to be a disappointment, especially on defense, and the Classic City Canines fell to resurgent Alabama, division foe Florida, and in-state rival Georgia Tech to receive a bowl bid that fell well short of expectations.
The 2009 Capital One Bowl lacked much of the drama that had accompanied the Bulldogs’ last three visits to Disney World, though the game was more competitive for a longer stretch than the final score and the passage of time would lead you to believe. This was due largely to the fact that the Red and Black generally, and Matthew Stafford particularly, played poorly in the early going.
Stafford’s first-half stat line shows just six completions in 14 attempts for no touchdowns and an interception, but, because the beleaguered Bulldog D harried Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer relentlessly---the Spartan signal caller was sacked six times over the course of 60 minutes---the two teams had only field goals to show for the opening two periods. MSU led, 6-3, at intermission.
Stafford earned game MVP honors on the strength of a second half in which he demonstrated why he would be taken first overall in the following spring’s NFL Draft. In the third quarter, the Lone Star State native directed a drive in which he went six of six for 92 yards, covering the last 35 on a touchdown strike to Michael Moore. Later in the period, Stafford found Aron White for a 21-yard score to extend the Athenians’ advantage to 17-6.
Sparty narrowed the gap on a Javon Ringer run to paydirt, and, though Michigan State’s two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, still the Georgia lead had been cut to five points with nearly nine minutes remaining in the game. Stafford went back to work, guiding the ‘Dawgs downfield and finding Knowshon Moreno for the 21-yard touchdown pass that gave Stafford his record-setting 25th scoring strike of the season. The junior gunslinger connected on 14 of his last 17 aerials in the final outing of his Georgia career, tallying 250 yards through the air over the course of the afternoon.
The Bulldogs’ 24-12 cushion proved enough to secure the victory, as the Spartans were stopped short on fourth down and Hoyer was intercepted in the contest’s final minute. Moreno, who managed only 62 rushing yards on 23 carries in the Capital One Bowl, joined Stafford in leaving early for the professional football ranks, but not before helping to deliver Mark Richt’s second win in as many tries in Orlando.