Georgia's 12-win season marred by losing SEC title


Georgia's 12-win season marred by losing SEC title

ATLANTA (AP) Georgia players are still talking about how close they came to playing in Monday night's national championship game.

Sure, Tuesday's 45-31 Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska was nice, but it wasn't for the national title. The Bulldogs are still feeling the aftershocks from their 32-28 loss in the Southeastern Conference championship game to Alabama last month that ended with Georgia on the Crimson Tide's 5-yard line.

Quarterback Aaron Murray said that loss won't be forgotten.

``Obviously the loss was tough, to come that close to winning the SEC championship and then being able to play for the national championship,'' Murray said. ``I know it probably lingered in some of our minds but the best thing to do after a loss is to get back out there and play and to get a victory.''

Murray said No. 6 Georgia's win over Nebraska ``definitely eased the pain'' from a game ``everybody will remember forever just because it was so close and it came down to the last play.''

Coach Mark Richt said the loss to Alabama left the Bulldogs with something to prove against Nebraska.

``We wanted to win this game to prove, to ourselves really, that we are one of the better teams in the country,'' Richt said.

Georgia (12-2) became only the third team in school history to reach 12 wins. Now some of the team's biggest names must decide if they will enter the NFL draft.

Murray, who threw five TD passes against Nebraska, linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree and other juniors must decide if they will enter the NFL draft.

Jones is widely projected as a high first-round selection. He had two first-half sacks to give him a school record 14.5 for the season, breaking David Pollack's old mark of 14 in 2002.

Richt said he wanted the juniors to take their time and ``make their heart be in their decision.''

``If these guys choose to stay, I'm thrilled obviously, but if they choose to go I'm their No. 1 fan ether way because I just want what's best for them,'' Richt said. ``I can't say what's best for them. They have to figure out for themselves. They're grown men now.''

Murray, a fourth-year junior, already has graduated and played this season as a graduate student. He said the bowl game would not play a role in his decision.

``I think I'm going to sit down with my parents, draw up the pros and cons and go from there,'' Murray said as he sat beside Jones during postgame interviews.

``Jarvis and I are blessed to be in this position to make the tough decision.''

Georgia overcame injuries to receivers Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown to finish with the most points in school history. The win over Nebraska was Georgia's eighth game with at least 40 points. It scored a school-record 529 points and averaged 37.8 points, another school record.

A pair of freshman running backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, surpassed the most optimistic expectations. Gurley led the Bulldogs with 1,385 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns, including 125 yards and one touchdown against Nebraska. Marshall had 759 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

Murray's 3,898 yards passing set another Georgia record, topping Eric Zeier's 3,525 yards in 1993.

Murray regrouped after two early interceptions against Nebraska. He had 36 touchdown passes and only 10 interceptions for the season.

``I'm real proud of Aaron and the job he did,'' Richt said. ``He had a couple things go not exactly the way he wanted them to go. He had a couple picks early and just hung in there, very resilient, and finished.''

Georgia began the season with Ogletree and three other defensive starters suspended by Richt.

The defense regrouped for a 17-9 win over previously undefeated Florida. The game followed a challenge from senior safety Shawn Williams, who said the defense was playing soft.

Georgia held Nebraska to seven second-half points. Ogletree had 13 tackles, three for losses, and a sack. Williams had 11 tackles and a blocked punt.

Richt said more new stars will emerge after players graduate or leave early for the NFL.

``You just don't know who's ready to be the next guy to step up and make a play,'' Richt said. ``We have an outstanding recruiting class going right now. I can't get into particulars but I think we're going to have a big class and we're going to have an exciting class when it comes to talent.''

Georgia's only other 12-win seasons were in 1980 (12-0) when it won the national championship and 2002 (13-1) when it won the SEC championship.

There was no championship this season, but Murray savored his first bowl win. Georgia's last bowl win came in 2009.

``The big thing was just getting the bowl win,'' Murray said. ``It's special. Coach Richt said it, how good it feels to walk in after the bowl game and not see the seniors with their heads down. To walk in with people hugging and celebrating and jumping up and down is an unbelievable feeling.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.