“Georgia is a playoff team and one of top four teams in the country,” they said. “Georgia is going to run all over Texas and it won’t be close,” they said. “Georgia is too physical and defense is nonexistent in the Big 12,” they said. THEY were dead wrong.
Texas entered this contest a two touchdown dog to the Bulldogs from Athens, Georgia, and if you listened to the talking heads this game was over before the teams ever took the field. Just about everyone seemingly wrote off the Longhorns having any chance in this matchup. That is just about everyone except the team itself.
While Bevo certainly set the tone before the game, it was evident from early on that Texas had come in confident and prepared to slug it out with Georgia. They were playing fast and flying around, and looked like the Tom Herman coached teams that we’ve become accustomed to seeing in big games. It was refreshing and fun to watch this team play the role of giant killer, as they proved to those around the country that they are heading in the right direction. Herman and his staff have certainly righted the ship and have a chance to really make some noise in 2019.
With that all said, here are my takeaways from the Texas sized takedown of the Bulldogs:
Sam Ehlinger’s rise to stardom continues
I’ve written about Ehlinger’s progression as a player this year several times over now. Ehlinger went from a reckless freshman trying to make every play in year one to an All- Big 12 caliber quarterback who will certainly be in the Heisman conversation going into the 2019 season.
Last night wasn’t Ehlinger’s best performance, but as usual he provided a steady hand for the offense, played turnover-free football, and put together a gritty performance against one of the nation’s best defenses. Ehlinger went on to tie the Sugar Bowl record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback on the way to earning MVP honors for the game, and on top of that almost brought the house down with his now famous quote during the trophy presentation. Have a night, young man.
Ehlinger has never lacked confidence or swagger, but walking into the house that Drew Brees built rocking a Brees Westlake throwback jersey was a total boss move, and on top of that he delivered the win. On the year, Ehlinger tallied just over 3800 yards of total offense and accounted for 41 touchdowns. Texas fans get to enjoy him for two more years.
Big 12 Defense > SEC Defense
Remember all that talk about how the Big 12 didn’t play defense? Well the Texas defense showed up to the Superdome like they were sick of all that talk, because they brought the hard hats to the yard and went to work. Todd Orlando’s bunch came out flying around the yard and laid the wood to anything in red and white, and it was a lot of fun to watch. Georgia has a ground and pound offensive identity that they like to use to wear down defenses, but their vaunted rushing attack only produced 72 yards on 30 carries, which was good for a meager 2.4 YPC.
On top of that, the Texas defense forced two turnovers and almost got a third on another fumble, which left the Longhorns at +2 in the turnover margin for the evening. Texas was able to generate pressure on Jake Fromm for most of the night and BJ Foster laid a hit on him that most certainly landed Fromm in an ice bath after the game. This entire group deserves a game ball for showing up with their big boy britches on and winning a scrap that many people didn’t give them a chance to win.
Tre Watson will be missed in 2019
Convincing Watson to come to Austin over Lubbock and Baton Rouge ended up being one of the most underrated recruiting victories for the Longhorn staff. In a game where running room was at a premium, Watson came out as the leading rusher at 91 yards on 18 carries (5.1 YPC) and despite being a smaller back he was consistently finishing his runs and dishing out some punishment on the back end. Finding a back with his skillset that could provide a veteran presence this year was very important given that Keaontay Ingram was banged up for a good portion of the year and couldn’t shoulder a full load of carries.
Watson made the most of his touches last night in NOLA, and his success brought some balance to the Texas offense and kept the Georgia defense from omitting the Texas run game and making life harder on Ehlinger on his drop backs. The issue of Texas being thin at running back has already been discussed in length here, so it will be interesting to see how the staff goes about replacing Watson’s production.
Quiet night for Texas’ dynamic duo at WR
Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey absolutely terrorized defenses all year long, but last night was one of the quieter nights for the duo that I can remember. While they both made some key plays that prolonged drives or eventually led to points, they were held in check for most of the evening. Johnson in particular seemed invisible early on in the matchup before he finally made a nice catch up the sideline for a 35-yard gain. Johnson ended the night with 3 catches for 40 yards, but he did convert Texas’ lone two-point conversion on a back shoulder fade late in the game. Humphrey, on the other hand, was the Longhorns’ leading receiver in the contest (7 catches, 67 yards) and he also completed his only pass attempt for 8 yards.
I figured with Deandre Baker out, these two would have been a little more busy last night, but the Georgia defense fared pretty well against them all things considered. With this game in the books, now we wait and see if Johnson and Humphrey will opt to return to school or decide to take their talents to the NFL.
No Sterns, No Problem
With Caden Sterns hobbled coming into this game, Texas was down one Freshman All-American and forced to do some juggling on the back end of the defense. Even with The Wolf on the sidelines, Texas was more than fine due to solid performances from the likes of BJ Foster and PJ Locke, who ended up playing bigger roles in Sterns’ absence. It was refreshing to see Locke play well and come up with a big turnover, given his well-documented struggles over the past two seasons. Foster absolutely looked the part of the five-star recruit the networks pegged him as. Foster’s hit on Fromm late in the contest was one of the plays of the night, as he got a free run off the edge on a blitz and laid a hard, clean hit on the quarterback.
While Texas will have to replace both starting corners in Kris Boyd and Davante Davis, the Longhorns are absolutely stacked at safety with Brandon Jones likely returning and the Foster/Sterns combo remaining for at least 2 more seasons. The future is bright on the back end of the defense, and I know the staff has to be giddy about how this group is shaping up going into 2019.
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