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No. 15 Texas begins 2019 by dumping Sugar on No. 5 Georgia

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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.

Texas leads Georgia in smash mouth Sugar Bowl

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Tuesday night’s Allstate Sugar Bowl was supposed to be a consolation game between two conference championship game losers, but it’s turned into anything but that as No. 15 Texas holds a 20-7 lead over No. 5 Georgia at the half in New Orleans.

Texas 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 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.

Ehlinger was 10-of-13 for 90 yards through the air while rushing seven times for 27 yards and both of his team’s touchdowns. Tre Watson leads all runners with 49 yards on 10 carries, which equals the rushing total from all three of Georgia’s running backs (on 16 combined totes).

Fromm completed 9-of-15 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, which wouldn’t be a problem for Georgia if the running game was clicking. The running game is not clicking. Georgia’s 118 first half yards were a season low.

Whether that trend stays or flips will decide the game.

Georgia will receive to open the second half.

East champ Buffalo claims three MAC individual honors

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It was a tremendous year on the field for Buffalo that keeps getting better on into the postseason.

Ahead of its second-ever appearance in the MAC championship game this Friday night, the Bulls claimed three individual honors from the conference, including Lance Leipold as the Coach of the Year.  Additionally, quarterback Tyree Jackson was named Offensive Player of the Year and running back Jaret Patterson received Freshman of the Year honors.

Others receiving individual honors were:

Defensive Player of the Year: defensive end Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois
Special Teams Player of the Year: return specialist Diontae Johnson, Toledo
Vern Smith Leadership Award Winner: defensive end Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois

Buffalo will face Northern Illinois in the title game this weekend.  The Bulls will be making their first appearance in the game since the 2008 season, while NIU will be playing in its seventh MAC title game since 2010 and its first since 2015.  In a stretch of six consecutive championship game appearances from 2010-15, the Huskies won three league titles, with the last coming in 2014.

Bryce Love, Ed Oliver headline Walter Camp Award preseason watch list

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What is arguably the second-most prestigious award in college football has officially joined in on the watch listing fun.

The Walter Camp Foundation became the last (?) of the major awards to release its preseason watch list, with a total of 50 individuals making the cut as the players to watch for its 2018 Player of the Year Award.  Headling that half-century group is a pair of 2017 Camp All-Americans — Stanford running back Bryce Love and Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver.

All FBS conferences are represented, led by nine each for both the Big Ten and ACC.  The ACC (eight) and Big 12 (seven) are next, followed by the Pac-12 (five), AAC (four), Conference USA (three), MAC (one), Mountain West (one) and Sun Belt (one).  Two football independents, Army and Notre Dame, made the initial cut as well.

A total of nine schools placed two players each on the watch list: Alabama, Clemson, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, TCU, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Of the 50 watch listers, 38 come from the offensive side of the ball.  The breakdown of that group goes 17 quarterbacks, 15 running backs, five wide receivers and one tight end.  An even dozen are, obviously, defensive players — seven defensive linemen, three linebackers, two defensive backs.

Breaking down the group by classes, there are 17 seniors, 25 juniors and eight sophomores.

Cam Akers, RB, Sophomore, Florida State
Darius Anderson, RB, Junior, TCU
Rodney Anderson, RB, Junior, Oklahoma
Ben Banogu, DE, Sophomore, TCU
Nick Bosa, DL, Junior, Ohio State #
Spencer Brown, RB, Sophomore, UAB
Jake Bentley, QB, Junior, University of South Carolina
A.J. Brown, WR, Junior, Ole Miss
Jake Browning, QB, Senior, Washington
Devin Bush, LB, Junior, Michigan #
Raekwon Davis, DL, Junior, Alabama
AJ Dillon, RB, Sophomore, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Sophomore, Ohio State
T.J. Edwards, LB, Senior, Wisconsin #
Noah Fant, TE, Junior, Iowa
Mason Fine, QB, Junior, North Texas
Ryan Finley, QB, Senior, North Carolina State
Rashan Gary, DE, Junior, Michigan
Myles Gaskin, RB, Senior, Washington
Joe Gilles-Harris, LB, Junior, Duke #
Will Grier, QB, Senior, West Virginia
Justice Hansen, QB, Senior, Arkansas State
Damien Harris, RB, Senior, Alabama
Darrell Henderson, RB, Junior Memphis
Justice Hill, RB, Sophomore, Oklahoma State
Collin Johnson, WR, Junior, Texas
Diontae Johnson, WR, Junior, Toledo
Jaquan Johnson, DB, Senior, Miami (Fla.)
Dexter Lawrence, DL, Junior, Clemson
Brian Lewerke, QB, Junior, Michigan State
Drew Lock, QB, Senior, Missouri
Bryce Love, RB, Senior, Stanford *
Trace McSorley, QB, Senior, Penn State
McKenzie Milton, QB, Junior, UCF
Steven Montez, QB, Junior, Colorado
Ed Oliver, DL, Junior, Houston *
Malcolm Perry, QB, Junior, Navy
Ahmmon Richards, WR, Junior, Miami (Fla.)
Brett Rypien, QB, Senior, Boise State
Kyle Shurmur, QB, Senior, Vanderbilt
David Sills, WR, Senior, West Virginia #
Devin Singletary, RB, Junior, Florida Atlantic
Benny Snell, RB, Junior, Kentucky
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Junior, Auburn
Khalil Tate, QB, Junior, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Sophomore, Wisconsin #
Christian Wilkins, DL, Senior, Clemson #
Greedy Williams, DB, Sophomore, LSU
Brandon Wimbush, QB, Senior, University of Notre Dame
Darnell Woolfolk, RB, Senior, Army-West Point

* 2017 Walter Camp All-America First-Team selection
# – 2017 Walter Camp All-America Second-Team selection

Biletnikoff Award watch list highlighted by 2017 finalist David Sills

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You know how I know we’re getting closer to the start of a new season?  Yet another watch list.

The latest to release theirs is the Biletnikoff Award, with the honor going to the nation’s top receiver issuing a list consisting of 50 players from all nine FBS conferences as well as one independent (UMass).  Headlining this year’s preseason list is West Virginia’s David Sills, who was a finalist for the 2017 award claimed by Oklahoma State’s James Washington.  One other 2017 semifinalist is included as well, Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown.

A total of seven teams placed two receivers each on the watch list: Cal (Kanawai Noa, Vic Wharton III), Louisville (Dez Fitzpatrick, Jaylen Smith), Nebraska (Stanley Morgan Jr., JD Spielman), North Texas (Jalen Guyton, Michael Lawrence), Oklahoma (Marquise Brown, CeeDee Lamb), Toledo (Diontae Johnson, Cody Thompson) and West Virginia (Gary Jennings Jr., Sills).

Three conferences totaled seven players apiece, the ACC, Big 12 and MAC.  That trio is followed by five each from Conference USA and four apiece for the AAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt.  The Big Ten and Mountain West each placed three.

Below is the complete list of 2018 Biletnikoff Award preseason watch listers:

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Tyre Brady, Marshall
A.J. Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
Ryan Davis, Auburn
Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
Terren Encalade, Tulane
Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Jonathan Giles, LSU
Marcus Green, ULM
Jalen Guyton, North Texas
Emanuel Hall, Missouri
Justin Hall, Ball State
Kelvin Harmon, North Carolina State
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Penny Hart, Georgia State
Justin Hobbs, Tulsa
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Gary Jennings Jr., West Virginia
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
Collin Johnson, Texas
Diontae Johnson, Toledo
KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Michael Lawrence, North Texas
Ty Lee Middle, Tennessee
McLane Mannix, Nevada
Scott Miller, Bowling Green
Denzel Mims, Baylor
Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Kanawai Noa, California
James Proche, SMU
T.J. Rahming, Duke
Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
David Sills V, West Virginia
Steven Sims Jr., Kansas
Jaylen Smith, Louisville
Kwadarrius Smith, Akron
JD Spielman, Nebraska
Cody Thompson, Toledo
John Ursua, Hawaii
Teddy Veal, Louisiana Tech
Jamarius Way, South Alabama
Nick Westbrook, Indiana
Vic Wharton III, California
Malcolm Williams, Coastal Carolina
Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia