The Allstate Sugar Bowl began when Bevo rushed Uga during a pre-game photo op, and then a group of Longhorns did the same to the Bulldogs. A No. 15 Texas team that will play the 2019 season with Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff expectations showed exactly why, showcasing superior physicality and execution to dump No. 5 Georgia in a 28-21 win that wasn’t as close as the final score.
After spending the past month — and Saturday night specifically — chirping about how they belonged in the Playoff over Notre Dame and Oklahoma, Georgia (11-3) backed that talk up by playing its worst game of the season. The Bulldogs fell into a 17-0 hole early in the second quarter and never recovered. The SEC’s best rushing team was out-rushed by a team that entered the game No. 95 in the country on the ground — and out-rushed emphatically, 180-72.
But this night was about Texas, and right from the start.
The Longhorns accepted the ball to open the game and rolled 75 yards in 10 plays to open the game with a touchdown. Sam Ehlinger completed all five of his passes for 61 yards — including a 3rd-and-7 to Humphrey to set up a first-and-goal, which Ehlinger converted with a 2-yard keeper.
Georgia’s first possession saw Jake Fromm convert a 3rd-and-6 with an 11-yard strike to Terry Godwin, but a following 3rd-and-9 saw pressure from Charles Omenihu and BJ Foster, forcing a throw away. Jake Camarda blasted the ensuing punt 53 yards to the Texas 6-yard line, but replay showed Camarda brought his knee to the ground as he corralled a low snap from Nick Moore, flipping the ball from the Texas 6 to the Georgia 27 — a 66-yard change in field position. Georgia’s defense forced a three-and-out, but instead of a Texas punt from its own end zone, Cameron Dicker converted a 37-yard field goal to put the Longhorns up 10-0 at the 6:05 mark of the first quarter.
Georgia actually got off a punt on its second possession, but Camarda shanked this one for just 11 yards, handing Texas (10-4) the ball at midfield. UT pushed to the Georgia 32 but went backward from there and punted. However, Georgia was not done giving Texas first quarter gifts, as D’Andre Swift fumbled the ball to Texas defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon at his own 12.
When Ehlinger rushed in on a 3rd-and-7 for his second score of the game at the 14:53 mark of the second quarter, Texas had a 17-0 lead and a 110-8 total yardage advantage.
Georgia snipped at their yardage deficit on their first drive of the second quarter with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The score came on a 17-yard Fromm pass to Brian Herrien, but the key completion was a 12-yard strike to Riley Ridley on a 3rd-and-11 from the Texas 29.
Texas answered Georgia’s score, but not with a touchdown. Dicker’s second field goal, a 30-yarder, pushed the UT lead to 20-7 with 4:37 to go in the first half. The key play of the drive came on a 1st-and-10 from the Texas 37, when Ehlinger ducked a blindside sack and turned it into a 17-yard scramble.
Swift fumbled the ball inside his own territory on Georgia’s next possession, but the Bulldogs hopped on this one and eventually reached the Texas 31, but Anthony Wheeler sacked Fromm on a 3rd-and-10, giving Texas just their third third down stop on eight first-half tries.
After a scoreless third quarter, Ehlinger’s third rushing touchdown of the game put Texas up three scores with 11:49 left, but it didn’t come easy. After Ehlinger kept a 4th-and-1 rush from the Georgia 13, Texas called his number on six straight snaps — a 5-yard run on 2nd-and-15, a 10-yard conversion on 3rd-and-10, and then four straight quarterback runs up the gut from the Georgia 1. Finally, on fourth down, Ehlinger got in, and replay review showed he had the nose of the ball on the first white blade of the Superdome’s goal line FieldTurf when his knee hit the ground, upholding the touchdown call on the field. Texas went for two and gave Ehlinger a break, hitting Collin Johnson with a fade to push its lead to 28-7.
Georgia needed a quick response and got one, moving 66 yards in six plays and 84 seconds to pull within 28-14 at the 10:25 mark of the final frame on a 3-yard toss to Mecole Hardman. Texas put together a brief drive but punted back to Georgia at their own 15, with exactly half the fourth quarter to play and momentum on their side.
Instead, Georgia punted — immediately. Gary Johnson sacked Fromm on first down, and pressure forced two incompletions on second and third down. Texas burned all but the final 70 remaining seconds and both of Georgia’s available timeouts. A plethora of penalties — Texas had two defensive backs ejected for targeting on the drive — helped Georgia pull within one score on a 5-yard pass to Swift, but with just 14 seconds remaining. Collin Johnson recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
Ehlinger closed a fantastic sophomore season by hitting a modest 19-of-27 passes for 169 yards while carrying the load in the Texas rushing game with 21 carries for 64 hard-fought yards and all three of his team’s touchdowns.
He will enter 2019 as a Heisman Trophy candidate and his team, which just won a New Year’s Six game for the first time since Colt McCoy and company did so in 2008, will enter the year with championship expectations. Tuesday night’s game showed exactly why.