JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After more than 20 minutes of questions in an EverBank Field hallway, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo finally had a chance to look at the statistics from Wednesday's Gator Bowl.
He was primarily interested in one stat: red-zone conversions.
Georgia's total — 4 of 6 — wasn't bad. The only problem: Three of the four conversions were field goals by sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan.
Settling for field goals and those two failures to convert late in the fourth quarter are the things that Georgia partisans will remember until spring ball.
“We moved the ball well. We just didn't make the plays in the red zone and they did,” Bobo said. “We've been very good at not having lost yardage plays all year, and we had way too many today that put us in bad situations.
“We were able to overcome some on third down, but just too many second-and-longs — they kind of hurt us.”
Bobo and Georgia head coach Mark Richt also fielded questions about why the Bulldogs didn't go for a fifth field goal in the fourth quarter that would have narrowed Nebraska's advantage to 24-22.
The 8-5 Bulldogs were facing fourth-and-2 at the Nebraska 14 with 4:42 remaining. Instead of having Morgan try a 31-yard field goal — he had already made two from 38 yards and two more from 28 and 30 — Georgia went for the gusto.
A pass from quarterback Hutson Mason to flanker Rantavious Wooten was broken up by a hard hit from Nebraska safety Andrew Green.
“I didn't really think about kicking the field goal,” Richt said. “I knew if we made it on fourth down, we kept the drive going, we could make the touchdown, take the lead.
“Obviously we could have kicked a field goal. But then you have to kick it off, cover the kick. We've covered very well, but you take a risk of something happening there.”
The Georgia defense did what Richt hoped it would do — it held the Huskers to a three-and-out.
Again the Bulldogs drove on Nebraska's defense and even converted a fourth-and-1 before a false start by flanker Chris Conley — who had a 29-yard catch-and-run to jump-start the drive — slowed Georgia's offensive roll just enough to create another fourth-down situation.
With fourth-and-3 from NU's 16, Mason again wound up and threw a pass to tight end Arthur Lynch, who couldn't hold on for what would have been a first down.
Georgia used a lot of time on that drive with rushing plays and faced that final fourth down with just 31 seconds to play.
“We knew we were in four-down territory, which freed us up to run the ball a little bit,” Richt said. “Fourth-and-3 is a lot easier to manage than a fourth-and-8 or fourth-and-9. We thought we might be able to break one because they were rushing the passer hard, playing some pretty good pass defense as well.”
The wet playing conditions didn't help the style of game Mason prefers to play. The junior, starting just his second game after senior starter Aaron Murray's season-ending knee injury, prefers a faster-paced game, Bobo and Richt said.
But Mason also was struggling with the ball being wet, and shuttling in a dry football after every play took valuable time off the clock for the Bulldogs.
While Mason said he didn't have any trouble getting comfortable early in the game, Richt said he noticed things flowed better for the junior quarterback as the game progressed.
“I thought Hutson, as time went on and (he) got used to the elements, did a really good job,” Richt said. “Games like this are hard-fought. I know at crunch time, from what I saw, Hutson played very well.”
Bobo agreed that wet footballs did bother Mason, especially in the first half.
“Coach talked to him and got him calmed down a little bit,” Bobo said. “(Mason) just didn't feel like he could throw the ball down the field the first half.”
But at the end, it was the inability to turn red-zone opportunities into touchdowns that frustrated Georgia players, including running back Todd Gurley.
“Just to go all the way down there, and fourth down just give it to them,” Gurley said. “That's a bad feeling right there.”
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Video: NU coach Bo Pelini and others at the postgame press conference:
Video: Gator Bowl highlights:
Video: Sam McKewon's postgame analysis: