ATHENS, Ga. -- Following a 32-28 loss in the SEC Championship game against Alabama on Saturday evening, Georgia accepted an invitation to the Capital One Bowl on Sunday. The Bulldogs (11-2) will face Big Ten championship game runner-up Nebraska (10-3) in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, Jan. 1.
"If we weren't going to be in a BCS game, this was the location that we wanted to be in," said Georgia Director of Athletics Greg McGarity on Sunday evening. "We look forward to everyone treating us so well down there and to coming down to enjoy a week in central Florida. I know our fans will enjoy it, our players will enjoy it, and our coaches will enjoy it. We're looking forward to getting down there right after Christmas."
"We're very thankful to have this opportunity to play in the Capital One Bowl," said head coach Mark Richt. "We've been there before and it was a tremendous experience for our players and coaches and their wives and children. I know the Bulldog Nation enjoyed it quite a bit."
As an Omaha, Neb., native, Richt also touched on the importance of this game from a personal standpoint.
"It's kind of personal for me in that I was born in Omaha, and my mom and dad grew up in Nebraska," Richt said. "All of my cousins on that side of the family are big Husker fans, but they like the Bulldogs too. They call themselves the Corn Dogs, actually, as a combination of Cornhuskers and Dogs, but it'll be fun for my family, and we're very excited about this opportunity."
After facing a tough running tandem in Alabama's Eddie Lacy and T. J. Yeldon, Richt believes that his Bulldog squad will be even better prepared to go up against Nebraska's rushing attack.
"I really haven't studied Nebraska one bit because I just found out a few moments ago that's who we were playing," Richt said. "Hopefully our experience in this last ball game will be even more motivation to tackle better, to wrap up better and to play our gap responsibilities better. We'll certainly be coaching hard to get that done."
Additionally, Richt feels that having played against the SEC's top-rated defense in Alabama will provide the Bulldogs with a number of positive takeaways for the Capital One Bowl game.
"We had a great challenge (against Alabama's defense), and we knew there wasn't much of a margin for error," Richt said. "But we stayed true to form as far as the things that we like to do. We had some success running the football, and our play action pass had some success, and when we had to move the ball down the field at the end of the game, we at least had the capability of doing it. We didn't finish like we hoped. The ball got tipped and caught in play and the game was over, but just to be able to move the ball well and put some points on the board against a defensive team like Alabama should help us with our confidence to be able to do it against Nebraska as well."
The Bulldogs will take this week off from practice in order to focus on final exams, and they will most likely reconvene for practice on Saturday.
"Our goal is to get about 12-15 practices in total, counting the ones that we get on-site in Orlando," Richt said. "After exams are over, we normally start practicing, and we'll take about three or four days off for Christmas. Showing up to the bowl site the day after Christmas is what we normally do."
Even after taking the one week off for exams, Richt knows that his Bulldogs will return to the field with a clear and focused mindset, led by their seniors, as they look for their 12th win of the season.
"I just think we've got a bunch of really great seniors that are very good men of character," Richt said. "They love the game of football, and they enjoy playing the game. They enjoy playing with their teammates, so I don't think it's going to be that great of a challenge (to motivate them), quite frankly. The venue is going to be exciting for our guys, and I know they're going to enjoy the opportunity to spend time in a lot of the Disney locales. I think playing Nebraska is going to get everybody's blood pumping. Our guys are going to want to finish strong. There aren't many teams in the history of Georgia football that have ever won 12 games in a season, and it's going to mean something to them. I know our guys want to finish on a high note."
While Richt acknowledged his disappointment in not winning the SEC Championship and having the chance to advance to the BCS National Championship game, he stressed the importance of focusing on the Bulldogs' new goals for the end of the season and what lies ahead in the future.
"We spent ourselves in a worthy cause," Richt said when referencing the SEC Championship game. "We of course wanted to play for the national championship, and we knew we were just a couple of yards or a couple of seconds away. We were in position to win it, and it was heartbreaking, no doubt. We were all highly hurt by it, and I told the team that I was extremely disappointed, but I said 'I'm not disappointed in you guys, and I'm not disappointed in your effort or the coaching staff's effort, but we just came up short.' It's one of those games where either team could have won, so you have to get over the heartbreak of that. I've always had the ability to understand what reality is and move on, so we're already out recruiting and getting back to work, and now we know that we're going to be in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl, we know we're going to play Nebraska, and so we've got a new goal in sight. We are excited to try to get to 12 wins, and that's a big part of what we're trying to get done now."
"There's absolutely no question that we are deserving of a BCS bid," McGarity said. "I know Florida finished third, and by way of them finishing third in the BCS, that locked out us without any discussion. There's no question that we played great the last half of the season, and just to see the way that we laid it on the line yesterday and to prove that we're right there along with the best in college football. I know we are all still hurting a little bit right now, but the sun still came up this morning and there's nothing we can do about it but learn and move forward, and we're really excited to be in Orlando."
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