Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Texas played SEC-brand football, curb-stomped Georgia

Posted January 2nd, 2019

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Story highlights
  • A Longhorn team that limped into the season with a loss to Maryland ended it by giving Georgia its lumps on one of college football's grandest stages.
  • The Longhorns created two turnovers while going error-free themselves, owned the ball for almost 12 minutes of the final period with time-consuming drives and stuffed Georgia at every turn.
  • The Horns just claimed their most significant bowl win since Brown's bunch whipped Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl on Dusty Mangum's 37-yard field goal to set in motion the drive in '05 for the school's first national championship in 35 seasons.

NEW ORLEANS — Which team was snubbed by the College Football Playoff again?

Oh right, that’d be the embittered Georgia team that got curb-stomped 28-21 by Big 12 runner-up Texas on Tuesday night before 71,449 fans and a shell-shocked national audience.

The Longhorns have arrived.

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Whether they remain in the upper echelon remains to be seen, but on one delicious moment in the Sugar Bowl, the 15th-ranked Longhorns served notice they’re no longer a pushover. They overwhelmed and crushed an outstanding Georgia team that was furious after being left out of the four-team playoff.

Texas players celebrate after defeating Georgia 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in New Orleans, Louisiana. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
So save the excuses that the Bulldogs didn’t care. Their coach, Kirby Smart, made it a point on Monday to say his team was out to make a statement. It did. Texas was better.

A Longhorns team that limped into the season with a loss to Maryland ended it by giving Georgia its lumps on one of college football’s grandest stages.

In what was one of this program’s biggest wins in almost a decade, it was Texas (10-4) that got double-digit wins for the first time since 2009 and looked the part of the heavyweight in a Sugar Bowl stunner from start to window-dressing finish with a late meaningless Georgia score.

After the final seconds ticked off this monumental upset by a two-touchdown underdog, senior guard Patrick Vahe leaped atop the aluminum bench on the Texas sideline and faced the wildly celebrating fans with arms extended. “This is the way to end a freakin’ senior season,” he crowed as he walked to the locker room.

The Longhorns even resorted to an SEC-style beatdown of the SEC runner-up that had come within a quarter of dethroning defending national champion Alabama. They completely suffocated the Bulldogs’ talented runners, holding them to a paltry 72 yards, and limiting them to 296 total yards.

“I’m a champion,” said a strutting senior defensive end Charles Omenihu.

Texas defensive back P.J. Locke III (11) celebrates his interception against Georgia during the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in New Orleans, Louisiana. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
In one 60-minute performance, the second-best team in the Big 12 erased all kinds of stereotypes.

The Longhorns showed not everyone in their league is soft. Georgia managed eight yards and one first down in the tone-setting opening quarter and trailed 20-7 at the half.

They showed they had the better quarterback on the field. Sam Ehlinger, as he has done all season, wowed like never before and willed his team to victory, outplaying Jake Fromm and delivering his trademark bone-crushing runs.

Tom Herman showed he had the guts to go for it twice on fourth down on the game-clinching series, the latter on the lip of the goal line to go up 21 points early in the fourth quarter to almost seal the outcome.

In short, Texas kicked Georgia’s butt. Thoroughly. Emphatically. And all night long.

Texas defensive lineman Chris Nelson (97) celebrates a defensive stop against Georgia during the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football game on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, in New Orleans, Louisiana. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]
Herman gushed about the excellence of Smart’s operation and said some of his staff had traveled to Athens last off-season to pick their brain. He shouldn’t expect to be invited back any time soon.

Junior wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who may have played his final game as a Longhorn if he decides to turn pro, said he and his teammates were out to prove “that we’re one of the top teams in the nation. Stop disrespecting us.”

No one should now, as Texas pushed toward a top-10 finish and unbridled momentum for 2019.

The way the Longhorns won this was almost as crucial as the victory itself.

“I was amazed at how well Texas controlled Georgia’s running game,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “They couldn’t run a lick between the tackles.”

Texas’ physical brand of football stopped Georgia in its tracks. The Longhorns created two turnovers while going error-free themselves, owned the ball for almost 12 minutes of the final period with time-consuming drives and stuffed Georgia at every turn.

Texas was — dare we say it, at least for one January evening — Alabama-like.

This marked the Longhorns’ biggest win since … well … October? The Horns did beat Oklahoma Part I, remember, but victories of this nature haven’t been commonplace since Mack Brown’s stellar run from 2004-2009.

But in the bigger view, the Horns just claimed their most significant bowl win since Brown’s bunch whipped Michigan in the 2004 Rose Bowl on Dusty Mangum’s 37-yard field goal to set in motion the drive in ’05 for the school’s first national championship in 35 seasons.

This isn’t to suggest Texas is that close to the ultimate prize, but it’s headed in that direction.

Herman himself choked up a little when asked just how far away his program is from realizing a CFP berth.

“It’s going to take multiple years of recruiting classes like (Alabama and Clemson) have had in the last half-decade or so,” the second-year Longhorns coach said. “We feel like we’re on track. So I think we’re going to need to continue to recruit at that elite level. And once we get them here, we’ve got to develop them at an elite level like those programs.”

For one night anyway, the nation got a glimpse of how good Texas is. And perhaps can be.

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