According to the Las Vegas bookmakers, the undermanned Texas Longhorns were the underdog in their Texas Bowl matchup against the SEC’s Missouri Tigers. The Longhorns were without nine players for this game, several being standouts on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers, led by ballyhooed quarterback Drew Lock, had won their last six straight while averaging over 51 points per game. Things, it seemed, did not look good for the Longhorns in their first bowl game in the Tom Herman era.
The opposite of conventional thinking is exactly what we received on this evening. The much-maligned Texas offense would successfully use both Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger at quarterback this evening. The Texas offense started the evening quickly by scoring a touchdown on their first series at the 13:28 mark of the first quarter on a 22-yard pass from Shane Buechele to running back Daniel Young. The Horns offense would be back in business almost ten minutes later as Sam Ehlinger hit wide receiver John Burt for a 7-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-0 lead.
Missouri would answer back in the second quarter when running back Ish Witter capped an impressive drive and scored a touchdown on a 4-yard run. The Longhorns would take a 21-7 lead as linebacker Anthony Wheeler, playing in place of the injured Malik Jefferson, would scoop and score on a 38-yard fumble returned for a touchdown.
The second half started off with a bang as Missouri would hit pay dirt on a 79-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to Johnathan Johnson at the 14:42 mark of the third quarter to put us at 21-13, Texas. The Tigers then added a field goal off the foot of Tucker McCann to tighten the score at 21-16. Pinned back deep in their own territory, thanks to one of the numerous amazing punts from Texas punter Michael Dickson, the Tigers would suffer from an ill-timed fumble. A bad snap went through the fingers of Drew Lock and out of the back of the Missouri end zone, leading to a safety which would put Texas ahead by the count of 23-16.
The fourth quarter would be all Texas as kicker Joshua Rowland would hit a 41-yard field goal early in the quarter. Senior wide receiver Armanti Foreman would score the final points of the evening at the 1:39 mark on an 18-yard run to put the Horns ahead for good at 33-16.
The offensive fireworks we expected from recently hot Missouri offense never developed. Part of the credit can go to a motivated Longhorns defense, made up of many players seizing their opportunity to gain valuable playing time. But the biggest factor in the stonewalling of the Mizzou offense can be attributed to the 2017 Ray Guy Award winner, junior Texas punter Michael Dickson.
Due to a sluggish offensive effort, Michael Dickson would have to punt 11 times for the Horns. Dickson single-handedly forced the high-octane Tigers offense to start offensive drives from within their own 15 yard line on seven of his punts. When faced against a tough defense, that’s a tough hole to climb out of for any well-accomplished offense. Dickson would receive the much deserved Texas Bowl MVP trophy as he was, in a word, phenomenal.
The Longhorns end the season at 7-6, their first winning season since 2013, and look ahead hopefully to better days ahead.
|3rd Down Eff||6-18||3-14|
|4th Down Eff||0-0||0-0|
|Yards Per Pass||5.8||7.9|
|Yards Per Rush||2.7||3.6|
|UT – S. Ehlinger||11/15||112||7.5||1||0|
|MIZ – D. Lock||18/34||269||7.9||1||1|
|UT – D. Young||12||48||4.0||0||9|
|MIZ – L. Rountree III||14||74||5.3||0||17|
|UT – D. Young||3||64||21.3||1||42|
|MIZ– J. Johnson||3||85||28.3||1||79|
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
The Texas running game stats aren’t all than impressive with only 113 total rushing yards and an average of 2.7 yards per rush. Freshman Running back Daniel Young was the lone bright spot with 112 total yards, 48 of which he gained on the ground on 12 carries. However, the running game was very effective in helping the Longhorns control the clock, winning the time of possession battle against a quick-strike Missouri aerial attack. This offensive efficiency also kept the Texas defense fresh.
Junior Texas LB’s Gary Johnson and Anthony Wheeler were part of 16 total tackles on defense. The hustle of fellow junior LB Breckyn Hager also helped fill the void left by the absence of Malik Jefferson. Junior DB’s P.J. Locke III and Davantae Davis added additional muscle by combing for 13 total tackles. This unit limited the Missouri offense to 3-0f-14 on third-down conversions, held them 29 points under their yearly scoring average, and forced four turnovers. Todd Orlando’s Longhorn defense will be losing some talent in the offseason, but the performances on the evening provide Texas fans with plenty to look forward to who’s returning in 2018.
Michael Dickson punted 11 times for a total of 452 yards. The placement of his kicks, 10 of 11 punts downed inside the 20 yard line, pretty much ensured that Missouri’s offense had its back against the wall the entire game. Dickson, a junior, is leaving early for the NFL. He leaves as only the second punter to ever be named the MVP of a college bowl game.