Texas football: Longhorns announce return to national stage with dominant Sugar Bowl win

By Will Leverett

Before the 2019 Sugar Bowl, Georgia’s bulldog mascot, Uga, went to meet Texas’ longhorn bull mascot, Bevo. Bevo became unhinged and charged right at Uga, who frantically ran away.

Bevo set the tone for what Texas did to Georgia on Tuesday night in the Sugar Bowl.

The Longhorns had not played in a New Year’s Six or BCS bowl game since playing in the national championship game following the 2009 season. It had been that long since the Longhorns won 10 games too. To find a major bowl victory, you have to go back to the Fiesta Bowl in 2008.

On Tuesday night in the Big Easy, the Longhorns checked all those marks off their list. No. 15 Texas beat up No. 5 Georgia on both sides to earn a hard-fought 28-21 victory in the 85th Sugar Bowl.

Texas is back. We can say it, it’s not a joke. Texas is nationally relevant. The Longhorns will easily rank in the top 10 in the preseason poll, and it’s completely deserved. That doesn’t mean Texas will win the Big 12, or compete for the College Football Playoff in 2019 – but it’s a heck of a start.

On a night where pass defenses stood tall, the game was won in the trenches. Texas football dominated Georgia’s elite offensive line and held the Bulldogs to just 2.4 yards per carry and 72 total yards. It was just the fourth time in Kirby Smart’s tenure that the Bulldogs failed to rush for 100 yards.

On the other end, it wasn’t pretty. The Longhorns averaged just 3.6 yards per rush. However, quarterback Sam Ehlinger made just enough plays to put the game away.

Ehlinger ran for all three of Texas’ touchdowns. All came from within 10 yards. The last one – a physical fourth down run from the goal line – was as gutsy a play as we have seen at Texas since Colt McCoy and Vince Young were on campus.

Texas outgained Georgia 355 to 284. The Longhorns rushed for 178 yards to Georgia’s 72. The game was 28-7 early in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored two late touchdowns to make it look closer than the game actually was.

Plenty of fans will say that, well actually, Georgia didn’t care about this game. If that’s the case, that’s quite the indictment of UGA.

The Bulldogs were the first team out of the College Football Playoff. This was an opportunity – in SEC territory in front of a national TV audience – to prove they deserved to be in. Plus, the playoff appearance a year ago was the first time since 2007 that the Bulldogs played on New Year’s Day.

Georgia might have felt entitled to win the game. There were still plenty of stakes. It didn’t matter. When the dust settled, Texas was the superior football team.

The work isn’t done in Austin. Texas didn’t hire head coach Tom Herman to just win 10 games in his second season – the Longhorns want to compete for national championships. Texas reeled in a top five recruiting class a year ago, and has another top 10 group with 22 players signed. Ehlinger is a sophomore. The second – dominated by freshmen – has a chance to be elite very soon.

But regardless, building a program takes time and multiple steps. Winning the Texas Bowl last year was a start. Earning a trip to the Big 12 championship game was another. Winning the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night speeds up the process dramatically. 

No one realizes it more than Ehlinger, who earned player of the game after compiling 233 total yards and three touchdowns to win the Sugar Bowl. When he was asked on the game broadcast what this meant for the program, Ehlinger gave a giant smile.

“Longhorn Nation: We’re baaaaaack!”

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