A deeper look inside Texas’ 33-16 Texas Bowl win over Missouri:
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 a middle-of-the-pack SEC team. 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 Eyes of Texas
The Longhorns kept their eyes on three specific Tigers — Lock, Missouri’s third-year starter whose 43 touchdown passes broke the SEC’s single-season record and led the country; running back Ish Witter, who went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season Wednesday night; and defensive end Marcell Frazier, working against a reconfigured offensive line that was missing All-American left tackle Connor Williams.
How’d they do?
Lock was 18 of 34 for 269 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. The offense really struggled in the first half — five three-and-outs and two turnovers in 10 drives.
Witter had 17 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown — and one critical fumble, which Wheeler returned for a score.
Frazier had four tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.
Armanti Foreman: In his final game as a Longhorn, he led the team in catches and iced the game with a late touchdown run. His brother, Houston Texans running back D’Onta Foreman, was there to see it.
Sam Ehlinger: The freshman stepped up in the second half in place of injured starter Shane Buechele and helped Texas push back a third-quarter Missouri rally by taking the Longhorns on two long drives that ate up valuable clock. And his lead blocking on Foreman’s touchdown was reason enough for a game ball.
Breckyn Hager: Wearing Tommy Nobis’ revered No. 60, Hager had a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss.
P.J. Locke III: Made plays left and right in place of DeShon Elliott. Locke was second on the team in tackles and forced the fumble that Wheeler returned for a touchdown. He also had a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
This and that
… from Kirk Bohls’ seat in the press box:
Offensive play of the game
Defensive play of the game
On deck: The offseason
Texas, which has the country’s No. 3-ranked recruiting class heading into the second national signing day period on Feb. 7, will look to fill some holes heading into 2018. Two quarterbacks who signed on Dec. 20 — Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson — will be early enrollees who’ll go through spring football and compete with Buechele and Ehlinger. And there are plenty of big shoes to fill, including Williams at left tackle, safety DeShon Elliott, cornerback Holton Hill, defensive tackle Poona Ford and possibly linebacker Malik Jefferson, who hasn’t said one way or the other whether he’ll jump ship to the NFL.
We’ll get our first look at what Tom Herman cobbles together for his second season on Sept. 1, 2018 — Texas at Maryland.
News on Bevo Beat is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of Hookem.com is included with an Austin American-Statesman subscription in addition to Statesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe today at statesman.com/subscribe.