ORLANDO, FLA., JAN. 1 -- Until today, Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Ross had politely declined to be drawn into the debate over who should be the national college football champion if this or that happened in the New Year's Day bowl games.

But after watching his second-ranked Yellow Jackets embarrass 19th-ranked Nebraska, 45-21, in the Citrus Bowl to complete their season with an 11-0-1 record, Ross finally weighed in.

"I feel like we deserve it," he said. "I'm not going to gloat over it or wave a flag for it, but I think we've done what we had to do. . . . I mean, we are the only undefeated football team in the country, and we won well {today}. I don't know what else we can do."

Georgia Tech built a 21-0 lead during the game's first 22 minutes, then used tremendous performances by quarterback Shawn Jones and running back William Bell to pull away from the Cornhuskers, who imploded after making it 21-14 with two touchdowns in a 74-second span later in the second quarter.

Jones completed 16 of 23 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown. Bell rushed for 127 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns and caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown.

The Yellow Jackets' defense did its part, as well, holding Nebraska's powerful rushing attack to 126 yards -- the Cornhuskers had averaged 340 this season.

"Our first job was to win the ballgame; the next thing was to make an emphatic statement," said Georgia Tech linebacker Thomas Balkcom. "We felt we had to win convincingly because we haven't gotten any respect all season."

Georgia Tech's 45 points are the most Nebraska has allowed in 29 bowl games. "I think you guys need to talk to the guy who knows a little more about football, and that's Coach Ross," Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said.

The Yellow Jackets, whose schedule and affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference has given skeptics plenty of fodder, turned their eyes toward Miami, where top-ranked Colorado played Notre Dame tonight in the Orange Bowl.

The couldn't have liked what they saw, with No. 1 Colorado eking out a 10-9 victory over Notre Dame, which likely will keep the Yellow Jackets at No. 2 -- and give them a near-replay of what happened the last time they went undefeated. In their 12-0 season in 1952, the Yellow Jackets finished second to 9-0 Michigan State in the Associated Press and United Press International polls.

Regardless, no one can deny the Yellow Jackets their place among the programs that have come the furthest in the least amount of time. Since losing 20 of 25 games from the start of the 1987 season through the third game of the 1989 season, they are 18-1-1, including a 16-game unbeaten streak that is the longest in Division I-A.

"Nothing's going to take this away from me, I'm telling you that," Ross said. The national championship is "an important thing to us, but there are a lot more important things in this world than that."

To prove his point, Ross said he would neither watch the Orange Bowl on television tonight nor return to Atlanta with the team on Wednesday. Instead, he said he would be spending the night traveling to Williamsburg, where his mother is in a hospital, comatose after a stroke and suffering from pneumonia.

"Several times during the ballgame, I said: 'Hold on. I want to get there. I want to get there,' " Ross said.

Nebraska played without starting fullback Lance Lewis, who was among four players suspended for violating curfew. Its leading rusher, I-back Leodis Flowers, played sparingly because Osborne said he had fallen to third on the depth chart.

That may have played a role in the Cornhuskers' miserable start. But Mike Grant, starting at quarterback for the injured Mickey Joseph, didn't help. He missed badly on his first four passes, and was replaced after four possessions by Tom Haase. Haase initially had equally little success, and after six series Nebraska had 27 yards net offense.

Meanwhile, Jones made a 46-yard run on the game's fourth play to set up the first touchdown, passed 22 yards to Emmett Merchant for another score and passed 27 yards to Rodney Goolsby on third down and 20 to set up the third touchdown.

But Nebraska moved to 21-14 with five minutes left in the first half on Haase's 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end Johnny Mitchell -- the Cornhuskers' second completion of the game -- and a 50-yard touchdown run by I-back Derek Brown that came two plays after a Georgia Tech fumble.

The Cornhuskers then held on three snaps. But linebacker Mike Croel ran into punter Tony Gariety and returner Nate Turner muffed the punt. Turner and teammates Tyrone Hughes and Tyrone Byrd had the loose ball surrounded, but Georgia Tech's Jay Martin recovered it at Nebraska's 22. That enabled the Yellow Jackets to increase their lead to 24-14 on a 37-yard field goal by Scott Sisson with 1:50 left.

After running out the clock, Nebraska took the second-half kickoff and drove to a first down at Georgia Tech's 22 with the help of a 15-yard face-mask penalty and a pass-interference penalty. But the Cornhuskers stalled.