NEW ORLEANS — Walking off the Superdome’s field on Tuesday night, Texas senior Calvin Anderson knew he made the right call.
The offensive lineman had just closed out his collegiate career with a 28-21 win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. He arrived at Texas as a graduate transfer after starting the past three years at Rice. None of those seasons had resulted in a bowl game.
Anderson chose Texas over Oklahoma, Michigan and Auburn. He joined UT alongside running back Tre Watson, a graduate transfer from Cal whose services UT won in a recruiting battle with Texas Tech and LSU. Anderson, a left tackle, and Watson provided Texas with 26 starts this fall.
“It’s more than I can ask for,” Anderson said. “This is the type of season you dream of. Coming to a big school, coming from a smaller school, this is more than I could have dreamed of. I’m still trying to take it all in. It’s special, though.”
On Tuesday, Watson rushed for a team-high 91 yards on 18 carries. That performance was bested this year by only a 93-yard effort against Iowa State in November. He ends this season as the team’s leading rusher.
In a post-game interview, Watson expressed gratitude toward his coaches, family and girlfriend. He even thanked Bryan Carrington, UT’s director of recruiting, for “finding me.”
“This is all a part of God’s plan,” said Watson, who was also Cal’s leading rusher in the 2015 Armed Forces Bowl. “It’s so unreal that this opportunity came (together) for me.”
Pick-ture perfect ending: Texas coach Tom Herman said on Monday that freshman safety Caden Sterns, who had injured his knee in the Big 12 championship game, had looked good in practices. In fact, Herman said “I don’t think we’ll have any issues with him.” Sterns, however, did not play.
Fellow five-star freshman B.J. Foster started in place of Sterns. Texas also had senior P.J. Locke III, who is normally a nickel back, fill in.
Foster registered three tackles, a forced fumble and a pass breakup, but it was Locke who had arguably the biggest play on defense. After Texas opened the second half with a failed onside kick, Georgia drove to the Texas 49. Locke helped UT preserve its 20-7 lead with an interception of Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm.
The interception was the third of Locke’s career. He had not picked off a pass since his sophomore year. Following the win, he said he “tried to match” the finish of Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, a friend who just ended his collegiate career with two interceptions in the Peach Bowl.
Holding onto the football: Texas won the turnover battle, 2-0. The Longhorns dodged a couple of bullets, though. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger pounced on his own fumble and had an interception overturned by replay.
Texas had six interceptions and five lost fumbles this season. Only Georgia Southern (five), Army (eight) and Miami of Ohio (10) boast fewer turnovers.
Texas’ season-by-season statistics are archived back through the 1950 season online. Of those 69 seasons, this marks only the third time in which the Longhorns did not commit at least 15 turnovers. Texas had 14 turnovers during their 2008 and 2015 campaigns.
During the season, Ehlinger also set a school and conference record when he threw 308 straight passes without an interception.
Delayed punishment: Georgia made the game interesting in the final quarter, and a six-play touchdown drive cut UT’s lead to 28-21 with 14 seconds left. On that drive, Texas lost two cornerbacks to targeting penalties on back-to-back plays.
Senior cornerback Davante Davis’ penalty prematurely ended his collegiate career. He will leave Texas with four interceptions and 26 starts.
Freshman Anthony Cook also was ejected, and his penalty will be more meaningful to the Longhorns. Since the targeting occurred after halftime, Cook must sit out the first half of UT’s next game. That’s the 2019 opener against Louisiana Tech.