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Texas 33, Missouri 16: Texas Bowl win gives Horns their first winning season since ’13

Posted December 27th, 2017

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It’s over at NRG Stadium in Houston. Texas, which was a 2 1/2-point underdog, has beaten Missouri 33-16.

The win gives Texas its first winning season since 2013, when the Longhorns went 8-5 in Mack Brown’s penultimate season.

It also is Texas’ first bowl win since 2012, when the Longhorns beat Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

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It also helped erase the memory of the 2014 Texas Bowl, when Texas managed only 59 yards of total offense while getting thumped by Arkansas.

It also gives the Longhorns momentum heading into the second national signing day, the offseason and spring football.

Why Texas (7-6) won

Maybe there was some backs-against-the-wall mojo going on. The Longhorns, after all, were missing four of their best players — heck, arguably their four best players, actually — in Connor Williams, DeShon Elliott, Malik Jefferson and Holton Hill yet somehow still got things done. An Anthony Williams fumble return, a P.J. Locke III strip and forced fumble, a Breckyn Hager fumble recovery, a Davante Davis forced fumble and game-sealing interception, and several impressively placed punts by soon-to-be-NFLer Michael Dickson made up for the fact that those key starters were missing, that Texas was down to two running backs and one tight end, and that the Longhorns were starting their ninth different offensive line combination of the season. And the bounces literally went the Longhorns’ way — the two fumble recoveries and the safety out of the back of the end zone.

Why Missouri (7-6) lost

Maybe it was SEC bias, or the fact that Drew Lock was leading the country in touchdown passes, or that the Tigers had won six straight games heading into Wednesday. But the Tigers looked like they had everything working in their favor heading into the game — but a middle-of-the-pack SEC team during it. Lock got hot in the  third quarter but Texas was able to withstand the push. Ish Witter went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season but really cost the Tigers on that fumble that Wheeler returned for a score. And critical penalties hurt, too. Texas’ opening drive of the game was aided by pass interference, defensive holding and facemask penalties that were worth 40 yards, and a third-down roughing the passer call kept Texas’ first drive of the fourth quarter alive, resulting in a field goal.

Lock got his 44th touchdown pass of the season, but Texas got the win.

The last five Texas-Missouri games

2005: Texas, 28-20 (Columbia, Mo.)

2008: Texas, 56-31 (Austin)

2009: Texas, 41-7 (Columbia, Mo.)

2011: Missouri, 17-5 (Columbia, Mo.)

2017: Texas, 33-16 (Texas Bowl)

Texas’ last five bowl games

2011: Texas 21, Cal 10 (Holiday)

2012: Texas 31, No. 15 Oregon State 27 (Alamo)

2013: No. 10 Oregon 30, Texas 7 (Alamo)

2014: Arkansas 31, Texas 7 (Texas)

2017: Texas 33, Missouri 16 (Texas)

Next up

The offseason. Texas’ next game is Sept. 1, 2018 at Maryland.

How it all happened

FIRST QUARTER

Texas 14, Missouri 0. The Longhorns scored on their opening drive for the fourth time this season — three of those four have been directed by Shane Buechele, who found a wide-open Daniel Young out of the backfield. And Sam Ehlinger found John Burt for Burt’s first touchdown catch of the season. Buechele, who started, led Texas on three of the five first-quarter drives. Missouri also had five drives, but the Tigers failed to get a first down on four of them and finished the quarter with 61 yards of total offense.

Texas: Daniel Young 22-yard pass from Shane Buechele (Joshua Rowland kick), 13:28

Texas: John Burt 7-yard pass from Sam Ehlinger (Rowland kick), 3:58

SECOND QUARTER

Halftime: Texas 21, Missouri 7. Ish Witter’s touchdown run was the 14th scored this season against Texas, which entered the game with the country’s seventh-rated run defense. Witter factored again on Missouri’s next drive, but it was a fumble. Anthony Wheeler scooped up the P.J. Locke III-forced fumble and returned it for UT’s eighth non-offensive touchdown of the year.

Missouri: Ish Witter 4-yard run (xx kick), 12:10

Texas: Anthony Wheeler 38-yard fumble return (Rowland kick), 7:47

THIRD QUARTER

Texas 23, Missouri 16. Down by 14 points at halftime, Missouri scored on the first half’s first play and later pulled within five points on a field goal. But after Texas went three-and-out, the Tigers lost their momentum when a snap by Trystan Castillo sailed over Lock’s head and out of the end zone for a UT safety.

Missouri: Johnathan Johnson 79-yard pass from Drew Lock (kick failed), 14:42

Missouri: McCann 28-yard field goal, 2:44

Texas: Safety

Fourth quarter

Final: Texas 33, Missouri 16. After Texas used both Buechele and Ehlinger in the first half, it was all Ehlinger in the second. He helped Texas eat up valuable clock on 8- and 12-play drives and the Longhorns’ defense forced two turnovers. Davante Davis’ interception at the 14 sealed it.

Texas: Joshua Rowland 41-yard field goal, 12:15

Texas: Armanti Foreman 18-yard run (Rowland kick), 1:39

Thoughts

1. Talk about next man up. Wheeler’s big fumble return, Locke’s forced fumble, Davis’ forced fumble and interception, Hager’s fumble recovery and sack, Josh Thompson’s brilliant downing of a punt inside the 5, Brandon Jones’ pass breakup — they all shined to help make up for the absences of Jefferson, Elliott and the rest.

2. Good nights for Ehlinger (11 of 15 for 112 yards and a touchdown, plus a big-time lead block on Armanti Foreman’s fourth-quarter touchdown); Daniel Young (12 carries for  48 yards, 3 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown); Michael Dickson (who was named the player of the game by ESPN); and those players listed above.

3. Speaking of Dickson, we hope you enjoyed his Longhorns swansong. Ten of his 11 punts were downed inside the 20, including a handful inside the 5. He had a long punt of 58 yards but was below his average on the night at 41.1, but the placements were, well, game-changers. Missouri’s average starting field position was its own 16-yard line.

4. Buechele looked good early, Ehlinger looked good late. The quarterback battle will be a fun one to watch this offseason, especially with freshmen signees Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson arriving in January.

5. What a game for Todd Orlando, who plugged holes left and right and really threw Lock and the Tigers offense off their game.

6. Texas started its ninth different offensive line combination of the season. Missouri had only two sacks.

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