Georgia senior CB Brandon Boykin ended his college career with a flourish, earning Most Valuable Player honors in Monday's Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
But it was a bittersweet feeling.
The Bulldogs were defeated by the Michigan State Spartans 33-30 in a rousing three-overtime game.
Boykin accounted for 183 all-purpose yards. He scored on a 92-yard punt return to set a Georgia bowl record, topping Charlie Trippi's 68-yarder in the 1945 Oil Bowl. He caught a 13-yard touchdown pass. He also trapped Spartans WR Keshawn Martin for a safety on Michigan State's first play from scrimmage.
"Honestly, I don't care about accolades,'' Boykin said. "I remember how I felt in that locker room and I'll remember that the rest of my life. Getting the MVP will symbolize how hard I tried to play. I gave it my all, no regrets.
"But I wanted a victory.''
For the third time, the Outback Bowl MVP came from the losing team — Purdue QB Drew Brees in 2000 and Georgia's Gary Moss and James Jackson, who split the award in 1986.
Georgia sophomore QB Aaron Murray and junior TE Orson Charles, both of Plant High School, were elated to play in their hometown. But the result felt short of what they anticipated.
Murray was 20 of 32 for 288 yards and two touchdowns, including a Georgia bowl record 80-yard score to Tavarres King. But Murray also threw a pair of critical third-quarter interceptions that allowed Michigan State to rally.
"It does put a damper on things,'' Murray said. "We had a great time all week, but this stinks for the seniors. We have a great future, even though it's tough to look at that right now.''
Charles never was a factor. He had one reception for 2 yards — on a shovel pass. Now he will consider whether to enter the NFL draft or return to Georgia.
Outback's best ever?
Outback Bowl president and CEO Jim McVay said the game's 26th edition probably was the most exciting one ever staged.
"We've been fortunate because we've had a lot of great ones,'' McVay said. "But this was one for the books. This was an instant classic. It's as thrilling of a bowl game as you could ever ask for. I can assure you the television audience was huge.''
The attendance — an announced crowd of 49,429 — was not huge.
McVay said the poor economy continues to affect all bowl games. Another factor: Michigan State and Georgia played in their conference championship games. Some fans couldn't afford both trips.
"There are challenges in the marketplace, but it's part of the college football business,'' McVay said. "But we're good. We're happy. Ask the players and coaches what they thought of this trip. Are you kidding me? They loved it. And we sure loved the game they gave us.''