NEW ORLEANS — Mascot longhorn Bevo’s pregame strategy was to run right at the Bulldogs and — once the football started — Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger took the same approach. With outstanding results.
Ehlinger ran for three touchdowns, the Texas defense largely held Georgia’s offense in check, and the Longhorns earned their first 10-win season since 2009 by beating the Bulldogs 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
“We’re back!” Ehlinger shouted to a raucous contingent of Texas fans after winning the game’s Most Valuable Player award.
Ehlinger was the star of a gritty win, running for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter, a 9-yard score in the second, and a 1-yard TD in the fourth. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound sophomore finished with 64 yards rushing on 21 carries and also threw for 169 yards.
Texas (10-4) continued its rise under coach Tom Herman, capping his second season with a Sugar Bowl win that will send expectations soaring after nearly a decade of mostly mediocrity. During the postgame celebration, some Texas players were making snow angels in the confetti on the field.
“It is incredible,” Ehlinger said. “We are on the way. This was a stepping-stone for Texas to get back to the elite level. This is going to give us great momentum headed into the offseason, and I am really excited for what we are going to do next year.”
Texas stretched its lead to 28-7 with 11:49 left in the fourth quarter on Ehlinger’s 1-yard run, scoring on fourth down after his first three attempts at running for the score fell just short of the end zone.
“We pride ourselves in our physicality,” Herman said. “At this point in our program, that is how we are going to win games. … I’m just so proud of how hard our guys played. They played hard early. They played hard late. They overcame some adversity. It was a complete team effort.”
Georgia (11-3) was a 12½-point favorite and claimed it would be ready for the Sugar Bowl despite just missing a spot in the College Football Playoff after a loss in the SEC championship game. But a sloppy opening sequence indicated otherwise.
Texas jumped out to a 17-0 lead by early in the second quarter, largely because of Georgia’s mistakes on special teams and offense.
The most costly was when D’Andre Swift’s fumble gave Texas possession at the Georgia 12. Three plays later, Ehlinger escaped trouble in the pocket and scored on a 9-yard run to give the Longhorns a 17-point advantage with 14:53 left in the second quarter.
Georgia got back into the game with a methodical 12-play drive that ended with Jake Fromm finding Brian Herrien for a 17-yard touchdown, but Texas still took a 20-7 advantage into halftime.
“They played more physical than us and it showed to me that they wanted it more than we did,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “And you’ve got to give them credit for that.”
David Brandt is an Associated Press writer.
Bevo didn’t like the looks of Uga X
The Texas football program’s mascot, a large white and brown longhorn steer named Bevo, caused a stir at the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday when it knocked down its barricade and briefly charged in the direction of Georgia’s mascot, a bulldog name Uga.
Uga X, an English bulldog wearing a red Georgia sweater, was pulled out of harm’s way, but Bevo’s head and horns appeared to make contact with several people, who scampered out of the way or were knocked down. There were no reported injuries and Bevo was restrained.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Texas-tops-Georgia-in-Sugar-Bowl-13502522.php.