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Nebraska defeats Georgia in Gator Bowl

Nebraska’s Quincy Enunwa secures a 99-yard scoring reception — the game’s key play.

stephen b. morton/associated press

Nebraska’s Quincy Enunwa secures a 99-yard scoring reception — the game’s key play.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Facing third-and-14 at the 1, Nebraska had a choice: Sneak the ball in hopes of getting a little extra room to punt or take a shot deep.

The Cornhuskers chose to throw — and boy did they wing it.

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Tommy Armstrong Jr. connected with Quincy Enunwa for a 99-yard touchdown strike— the longest play in school history — and Nebraska held on to beat No. 23 Georgia 24-19 in the rain-soaked Gator Bowl Wednesday.

‘‘I know one thing: There will never be a longer play in the history of college football than that one,’’ Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini said. ‘‘That was a big play for us.’’

Equally big were Georgia’s failures down the stretch. The Bulldogs (8-5) dropped two fourth-down passes in the closing minutes, helping Nebraska (9-4) close out its first bowl victory since 2009.

Nebraska, playing in its 50th bowl, also ended a four-game losing streak against teams from the Southeastern Conference. The streak included a 45-31 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl last season.

The rematch was much different.

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Nebraska did a solid job against running back Todd Gurley, who ran for 125 yards and a touchdown last year. Gurley finished with 86 yards on the ground.

Gurley was more effective in the passing game, catching seven passes for 97 yards. His 25-yard scoring reception to open the fourth quarter cut Nebraska’s lead to 24-19.

The Bulldogs had two really good chances to take the lead, but Rantavious Wooten and Arthur Lynch dropped fourth-down passes in the red zone.

‘‘I think I turned my head at the last second and was thinking end zone,’’ Lynch said. ‘‘It’s one of those situations. It’s not so much I dropped the pass. It’s that I let my team down. At the end of the day, it’s one of those things that you can never forget, brush off your shoulders.

‘‘It’s a win or a loss, and we lost. But I will never be able to forget this one. If I run that play 49 more times, I make the catch.’’

The drops capped Georgia’s woes. The Bulldogs moved inside the 21 seven times, but settled for four field goals.

The final two were costly.

Wooten dropped a fourth-and-2 pass around the 10 with 4:42 remaining. Georgia got the ball back with 3:18 to play and marched toward the end zone. But Lynch couldn’t haul in a fourth-and-3 pass that would have moved the chains with about 25 seconds remaining.

‘‘That [stinks],’’ Gurley said. ‘‘To go all the way down there like that and on fourth down you just give it to them, that’s a bad feeling right there.’’

Nebraska ran out the clock from there and then celebrated wildly all over the field.

Enunwa was named the game’s Most Valuable Player — and for good reason.

He recorded the longest play in Nebraska and Gator Bowl history.

After a timeout to discuss options on third and long, Armstrong dropped back and heaved the ball as far as he could to Enunwa, who was streaking wide open down the left sideline. Georgia cornerback Shaq Wiggins let Enunwa go, but got no safety help. Quincy Mauger had a chance to tackle Enunwa, but bounced off him just past midfield.

Enunwa coasted the rest of the way.

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