The 85th Allstate Sugar Bowl ended with the No. 15 Texas Longhorns proving their mettle against the No. 5 SEC runner-up Georgia Bulldogs, as the ‘Horns got a dominating win in the Superdome in New Orleans, LA.
Texas asserted control of the game early, scoring on their opening drive to make it 7-0. The Longhorns then took advantage of mistakes by the Bulldogs throughout the first half, and Georgia was only able to put up a single scoring drive before going into halftime down 20-7.
The Bulldogs seemed like they might make a game of it in the third quarter, when they were able to move the ball more, but the teams traded punts until the very end of the third period.
The Longhorns would go on a five minute scoring drive that carried from the late third into the fourth quarter. That all but put this game out of reach for Georgia, who managed to put up a couple of scores late.
Their last touchdown came with 22 seconds left in the game, though, and the Dawgs weren’t able to mount a comeback. That gave Texas a 28-21 victory.
Below are some thoughts on the Longhorns’ win in the Sugar Bowl.
TEXAS TOOK GEORGIA OUT OF THEIR ELEMENT
Coming into the Sugar Bowl, Georgia brought arguably the most potent rushing attack in the nation and were known for their extreme efficiency. Texas held the Bulldogs to 29 yards rushing in the first half, and came in determined to contain Elijah Holyfied and De’Andre Swift.
The front six for the Longhorns were able to hold up against the power rushing attack of the Bulldogs, who averaged 1.38 yards on first down throughout two quarters of play.
That put Georgia in the position of having to win this game through the air, and the passing attack of the Bulldogs didn’t really get going until the fourth quarter.
SAM EHLINGER IS FULL GROWN
When quarterback Sam Ehlinger lifted that MVP trophy in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it was well deserved. The sophomore quarterback was up against the best defense that Texas had seen all season, and he didn’t flinch on the big stage.
Ehlinger’s ability to distribute the football to his wide receivers, combined with his ability to escape the pocket kept the Longhorns’ offense on the move all day against the Dawgs. His ability to run the ball was the difference in this game, and he finished the Sugar Bowl with three scores on the ground.
His performance was the best by a Texas quarterback in a decade, and it got Texas their first New Year’s Six bowl win in as many years.
We shouldn’t overlook the Longhorns’ offensive line, of course, which was able to provide Ehlinger with ample time to throw all day and open up rushing lanes for Texas to gain 106 more yards on the ground than Georgia.
THIS WAS A MOSTLY MISTAKE-FREE GAME FOR TEXAS
The Longhorns were never going to win this one without getting a turnover or two, and they ended up being plus-two in that category. There was a fumble by Ehlinger on a bad exchange, but Texas ended up recovering.
Georgia found themselves down 10-0 early, though, almost primarily because of uncharacteristic gaffs – D’Andre Swift’s fumble and punter Jake Camarda accidentally downing the ball at the Georgia 27 stand out in particular. Those plays contributed to Texas’ 20-7 lead going into halftime and really set the tone for this game.
All credit to Texas, though, for not committing mistakes of their own. Apart from some late penalties, the Longhorns played a mostly clean game, and were able to maintain a lead from the first score to the end.
THE LONGHORNS ARE GONNA MISS THESE SENIORS
Some of the best players of the night were the seniors for Texas in this game. Offensively, tight end Andrew Beck and running back Tre Watson both had big games. Watson, a graduate transfer, had 91 yards on 18 carries against a team that was only allowing 130 yards per game on the ground coming in.
The seniors in the defensive backfield were also big all night as well. Kris Boyd and Davante Davis were asked to play on islands throughout this contest, and they continued to make plays.
P.J. Locke, who’d had his struggles in pass coverage this season, even had himself a day, coming away with the team’s only interception in the Superdome:
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) January 2, 2019
Players like linebacker Gary Johnson, defensive end Charles Omenihu, and lineman Chris Nelson also had strong performances in a game that was always going to be a physical battle. They compose part of an outgoing group of seniors that saw the lowest points of Texas football, and were able to end their careers on the biggest of stages.
WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR TEXAS?
Ehlinger proclaimed from the Sugar Bowl stage that Texas is “back,” a question that people have been attempting to answer on a weekly basis throughout this 2018 season.
The Longhorns opened with what seemed like an obligatory, head-scratching loss that had the college football world proclaiming that they were definitively “not back,” then went on a winning streak that included an upset of Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
They were back to being back, then after dropping two straight Big 12 games, were not back again.
Personally, I’m ready for nothing more than for us to begin asking different and more interesting questions. Plenty of people throw around answers to the “back” question without really knowing what it is they think Texas should go back to nor what would constitute Texas finally being qualified to be back.
The Longhorns are a program on the rise, and 2018 went a long way towards them sustaining the kind of success they had under Mack Brown in the 2000s, when ten win seasons were the norm.
This Sugar Bowl win speaks volumes to what Herman and his staff have been able to achieve in Austin, but the Longhorns’ next challenge will be sustaining success. By definition, that can’t be determined from just one football season.
No doubt, there are reasons for optimism at the University of Texas headed into 2019. It’s not unlikely that Texas is a Top 10 team headed into the preseason, and after their first 10 win season since 2009, this program seems to be turning. After topping the SEC runner-up in New Orleans on New Year’s Day, there’s undoubtedly a lot to build on for the Longhorns moving forward.