CELEBRATION, Fla. — Nebraska's top pass defense has the full attention of Georgia's wide receivers. The Huskers — ranked No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency and No. 1 in fewest pass yards — deny easy routes and aggressively challenge quarterbacks to make tougher, deeper throws.
How? Bulldog flanker Chris Conley pointed to NU's talented corners.
“They're really confident,” Conley said. “They take chances. Sometimes, one of their corners will play nickel. So they're very experienced in the secondary. They have a lot of older guys. It's really going to be on us to play the right techniques. They all play physical.”
Later at the Bulldogs' Saturday press conference, quarterback Aaron Murray said Georgia's tempo is one way to keep Nebraska's defense confused before the snap.
“We try to get lined up, get the play called, not let their defense get their blitz set up,” Murray said. “Move fast. They really like to press outside and make you go deep. I think we've been pretty successful all season long with some big plays down the field.”
Richt makes ball security a priority
Georgia coach Mark Richt was actually welcoming the rain that intermittently fell during the Bulldogs' Saturday morning practice.
“It's good for ball concentration, ball security,” Richt said. “You watch all these ball games, you see a lot of ball security issues. Special teams issues. Almost like playing the first game again in some ways. ... We've been working a lot on the habits of ball security.”
Richt said Friday's workout went so well that he removed the “competitive stuff” from Saturday's workout and instead worked against scout teams. Richt appeared pleased with the Bulldogs' motivation heading into the game.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was happy, too.
“They've done a good job of working when they had to go to work,” he said.
Bulldogs not bothered by Martinez's words
Georgia's defenders have heard that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez compared their unit to a “typical Big Ten defense.”
Martinez presumably meant it as a compliment, but his quote carries a certain negative connotation in the locker room of a prideful SEC defense.
Senior safety Sanders Commings had no response when asked about it Saturday.
“He can talk whatever he wants to talk,” Commings said. “We'll just handle it on the field.”
Commings said the defense doesn't mind a pregame verbal battle.
“Any time we've been called out, challenged, I feel like we've risen to the occasion,” he said. “We have another opportunity to do that.”
Bobo expects Marshall to play larger role
After playing a handful of snaps in the SEC championship game, Georgia freshman running back Keith Marshall should play extensively in the Capital One Bowl, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Saturday. Marshall shares time with fellow freshman Todd Gurley, but got only two carries in the 32-28 loss to Alabama.
“Keith's had a great month of practice,” Bobo said. “... We got a big plan for Keith in this game. We expect him to make plays and play well in this game. He's running good. A little bit of time off has helped him. He's had some knee soreness, and the rest has helped. He'll be fresh.”
Gates given starting nod at left tackle
Georgia will start Kenarious Gates at left tackle Tuesday, offensive line coach Will Friend confirmed, but sophomore Mark Beard “will play a bunch.” Junior Austin Long has had good bowl practices, Friend said, and may get some action at guard.
Friend said Nebraska linebacker Will Compton has been impressive on film.
“And the ends are athletic-looking guys,” Friend said. “They have good pressure packages. They're sound in what they do.”
— Sam McKewon and Jon Nyatawa