Start the 2019 hype: Texas impresses in Sugar Bowl upset over Georgia

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger had three rushing touchdowns in a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger had three rushing touchdowns in a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

After a performance like that, you might as well get the 2019 Texas hype going right now.

The Longhorns were double-digit underdogs against No. 5 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl but were better than the Bulldogs in every facet of the game on Tuesday night in New Orleans.

In a 28-21 win, Texas was the more physical team. It executed better. It hit harder. And it did so from the opening kickoff (well maybe before the game if you include Bevo’s confrontation with Uga).

On the very first drive of the game, Texas, with bruising quarterback Sam Ehlinger leading the charge, marched right through the heart of the Georgia defense with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Ehlinger completed all five passes he threw on the drive before barreling in from two yards out to open the scoring.

The drive set the tone for the recipe Tom Herman’s offense would employ all night. But a few Georgia gaffes helped Texas build its lead.

On the drive after Ehlinger’s TD, Georgia punter Jake Camarda hit a beauty. However, the snap was low and he picked the ball up with a knee on the ground, which made the play dead and gave the ball to Texas at the spot, the UGA 27. That set up a Texas field goal to make it 10-0.

Later in the first quarter it was a fumble by Georgia running back D’Andre Swift that gave UT the ball at the Georgia 12. Three plays later, Ehlinger was back in the end zone and Texas’ lead was 17-0. Georgia would finally get on the board midway through the second, but Texas’ lead was 20-7 at halftime.

The second half was more about the Texas defense. The third quarter went scoreless before Ehlinger added his third rushing score of the night early in the fourth to make it a 28-7 lead. Georgia responded with a quick scoring drive of its own to make it 28-14. UGA tacked on another score in the final minute, but it was too little, too late.

Georgia, which was averaging 478.8 yards per game, tallied only 284 yards against Texas and was held 179 yards below its rushing average.

What does this mean for Texas?

For one, the win is a great way to cap off the season for Texas. In just the second season under Herman, the Longhorns reached the 10-win mark for the first time since 2009, the year Mack Brown’s Longhorns lost to Alabama in the BCS title game.

The season was already a tremendous step forward for Herman’s program. There was the big win over Oklahoma and a trip to the Big 12 title game. But a win over a top tier SEC program is a big-time vaulting point into the offseason and beyond.

There will be a few NFL draft decisions to come. But much of this Texas team will be back in 2019. Ehlinger, a junior in 2019, is the leader of that group. He has been a capable runner since he arrived on campus, but Ehlinger has gotten better and better as the season progressed, especially with his decision-making and consistency in the passing game. He has proven to be one of the toughest quarterbacks in the country, and it’s clear that the team rallies around his style of play.

He is the type of quarterback that can take a team a long way. With Heisman winner Kyler Murray out of the picture at Oklahoma, Texas might be nipping at the Sooners’ heels.

So is Texas back? Ehlinger, the game’s MVP, seems to think so.

What happened to Georgia?

A few weeks ago, many around the country were up in arms about Georgia not making the College Football Playoff following its SEC title game loss to Alabama. That loss dropped the mighty Bulldogs, who wasted no time puffing their chests out on Twitter during the lopsided CFP semifinal games, down to the Sugar Bowl against the Big 12 runner-up Longhorns.

It’s fair to wonder about Georgia’s level of motivation after having their hearts ripped out by Alabama yet again and missing the playoff, but this was still an underwhelming performance. There’s no disputing that.

The loss probably won’t mean much in the long term, but it sure provides some ammo to those still lamenting the CFP selection committee’s decision to put Oklahoma in at No. 4 over UGA.

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