Gator Bowl 2014: Nebraska Cornhuskers 24, Georgia Bulldogs 19: A Lost Season Ends

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

The new year begins with disappointment for Georgia, but the new season is far more important

It's hard to find much to fault Georgia for if you just look at the box score for Wednesday's loss against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs held the Cornhuskers to 307 yards and gained 416 yards of their own. Georgia had 22 first downs to 14 for Nebraska. The Dawgs did lose the turnover battle, but only 2-1, so it's not like they were giving the ball away.

Instead, you have to look at the first four Georgia scoring drives, all of which ended up deep in Nebraska territory, and all of which resulted in field goals. And that potential 16-point swing is all it took. Long before Todd Gurley failed to escape a crucial tackle on what could have been a touchdown run, long before Arthur Lynch let a drive- and game-sustaining fourth-down pass bounce off his hands, the Dawgs had already missed several chances to change the outcome of the game. Losing this game turned out to be a team effort for Georgia.

The more important thing about this game for Georgia might have been what, if anything, it tells us about Hutson Mason. So far, all it tells us is that he's not Aaron Murray -- which is not much of a surprise, really. Mason wasn't bad, by any means -- he was 21-of-39 for 320 yards, a touchdown and an interception -- but he also wasn't the game-changing force that Murray was for this teams in other games. It's not hard to see him becoming the latest Mark Richt quarterback to become a quality starting quarterback in the SEC, but he's not there yet.

As for the present, the loss merely puts a bow on what was already a lost season for Georgia. The Dawgs actually had everything lined up the right way this season, winning against South Carolina and in what looked to be the toughest interdivision game, against LSU, before the injuries started to mount and Missouri started to show that it was a serious contender in the SEC East.

But the present is over. Georgia heads into an offseason with a touch of uncertainty, but with reason to think that this could be a good team even without Aaron Murray. For all the missed opportunities that the Dawgs had Saturday, a set of new opportunities begins tomorrow.

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