Aaron Murray wanted nothing more this week than to send Georgia’s senior class out with a game to remember.
The junior quarterback provided a record-setting performance to make it a reality. Murray threw five touchdown passes to set a Georgia bowl record, including two in the fourth quarter, as the sixth-ranked Bulldogs beat No. 23 Nebraska, 45-31, in the Capital One Bowl Tuesday in Orlando, Fla.
Murray shook off a pair of first-half interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, and passed for 427 yards — also a Bulldogs bowl record — against the nation’s top-ranked passing defense. He was the game’s most valuable player on the way to earning his first bowl victory at Georgia.
Georgia (12-2) also reached 12 wins for the third time in school history.
‘‘I don’t know what it’s like to head into an offseason with a win,’’ Murray said. ‘‘It’s a great feeling to get a win. It’s great for the seniors, who have meant so much to this team. They've done a great job of leading this team the whole season. To get 12 wins . . . That’s something special.’’
Nebraska (10-4) lost its third consecutive bowl game, and finished the season with two straight woeful defensive performances. The Cornhuskers lost the Big Ten championship game to Wisconsin, 70-31.
The Cornhuskers led, 24-23, at the half, but committed two of their three turnovers in the final 30 minutes.
Taylor Martinez had two interceptions and two touchdown passes for Nebraska, and Rex Burkhead rushed 140 yards in his final college game.
But Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said the efficiency of Murray and Georgia on third down (12 for 17) was too much to overcome.
‘‘I thought the plan was good,’’ Pelini said of his team’s defensive scheme. ‘‘Third down hurt us, obviously. When we were in position, it was man on man down the field. We needed to make some of those plays and we didn't. And, you know, again, that cost us.’’
Nebraska drops to 12-7 against SEC opponents in bowl games.
Trailed by questions about his team’s focus following its narrow loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game, Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday was also about a team that finished 5 yards shy of a BCS title-game berth finding closure.
‘‘We wanted to win this game to prove to ourselves that we are one of the better teams in the country,’’ Richt said. ‘‘I think our guys did a good job of sucking it up when they were tired. But when you make a big play here and there, it gives you a little more energy as well. We made enough big plays at the right moment.’’
Nebraska’s offense finished with 443 total yards, but the Bulldogs defense was stingy when it needed to be. They sacked Martinez five times, with junior All-America linebacker Jarvis Jones notching two.
Outback Bowl: South Carolina 33, Michigan 28 — Connor Shaw led No. 11 South Carolina to the brink of victory, and Dylan Thompson carried the Gamecocks (11-2) over the hump in Tampa.
Thompson came off the bench to throw a 32-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining, enabling South Carolina to match a school record for victories in a season with the win over No. 19 Michigan (8-5).
Thompson replaced Shaw during the winning drive, covering the final 43 yards after Shaw begin the march from his own 30. Devin Gardner’s third TD pass of the game had given Michigan a 28-27 lead.
Shaw threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns after missing South Carolina’s regular-season finale because of a left foot sprain. Thompson led the Gamecocks to a victory over their archrival, and threw for 117 yards and two TDs as a backup Tuesday.
Gardner threw for 214 yards in his fifth start for Michigan (8-5) since Denard Robinson injured his right elbow late in the season. Robinson took some snaps at quarterback and even attempted his first passes in a game since Oct. 27, but lined up mostly at running back and rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries. Robinson set the NCAA record for career yards rushing by a quarterback, hiking his four-year total to 4,495.
Gator Bowl: Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20 — Behind huge interceptions early and late, No. 21 Northwestern beat Mississippi State in Jacksonville, Fla., snapping college football’s longest postseason losing streak.
The Wildcats (10-3) earned their first bowl game win since 1949, ending a nine-game losing skid that was tied for the longest in NCAA history. They also celebrated double-digit victories for the first time since the 1995 Rose Bowl season.
Quentin Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the game and Nick Vanhoose set up a late touchdown with a 39-yard interception return. Those plays were the difference in a back-and-forth game that featured more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six).Continued...