“You have to be Texas tough to beat these top SEC teams.” -Texas after this game, probably.
This was a huge narrative win for Texas. They beat the team that was supposed to be in the playoffs over Notre Dame. They beat the team that Oklahoma couldn’t beat a year ago. They beat an SEC power that Texas A&M hasn’t beaten this century. They beat the spread (Georgia +13!!!!).
And they did it with toughness, outrushing Georgia 178 to 72 and controlling the game from start to finish, even finishing with 35 minutes of possession. Sam Ehlinger was warned by Jake Fromm about the level of physicality he was in for from Georgia and it was a good warning, the Dawgs landed some big hits. But Georgia should have been better warned about Ehlinger and Fromm probably took the worst of it, enduring a couple of sacks and several big hits from the Longhorn defense.
Texas also officially finished the 2018 season with 10 wins and a pair of victories over top 10 teams. They also appeared in the Big 12 title game and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter.
Of course things got a little interesting in the fourth quarter in the Sugar Bowl, like every other game this season. Every. Single. One.
But Bevo set the tone early…
…and Georgia’s players looked no better prepared than their mascot for the goring that Texas had in mind for them in this contest.
Quick thought no. 1: Sugar Bowl MVP Charles Omenihu?
Georgia wasn’t ready for Omenihu in this game. He was in the backfield all day long, flushing out Fromm, inflicting TFLs on the vaunted Dawg run game, and basically erasing Georgia’s main selling point as a program.
Kirby Smart’s Georgia is built around running the football downhill behind a massive and physical OL to what appears to be a permanently two-headed dog (three someday if they can convince Justin Fields to stay) in the backfield. Elijah Holyfield joined D’Andre Swift as a 1k-yard rusher this season but outside of that, it was a quiet and disappointing day for the Bulldogs.
Todd Orlando helped him out a lot, he understands how to stuff run-centric offense as well as any DC in the country. Texas used the timed insert-blitz and some other tricks to create angles and matchups for their DL and Omenihu was too strong, too quick, and too big for even the big Georgia OL to handle. Charles, you will be missed, enjoy that NFL payday.
Quick thought no. 2: Georgia did scout the Texas offense, they just couldn’t stop it
The Bulldogs played a lot of two-deep coverage. They were determined not to let Texas find Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the seam or Collin Johnson over the top. Ehlinger finished the day with just 169 passing yards at 6.3 ypa with zero TDs or INTs (close calls on each though). Georgia was counting on being able to run the ball on Texas’ front and stopping up the Texas run game without overloading the box on defense.
Well, Tre Watson ran really hard in this game with 91 yards on 18 carries and Ehlinger added 64 and three touchdowns. That gave Ehlinger 16 rushing TDs on the year, breaking Vince Young’s record. The Longhorns worked GT counter in a few different ways with a few different QB options attached including some swing passes and some keeper options that worked to help Texas punch holes for the RB at the point of attack. At the end of the game they had good clock-killing runs with the tight zone play, especially running it behind RT Sam Cosmi.
Georgia clearly struggled with Texas’ tempo. Incidentally, Kirby Smart and Nick Saban picked Tom Herman’s brain about how Ohio State beat them back in the day and Herman told them about how the Buckeyes knew they were vulnerable to tempo. The problem is that if you don’t face it like you do in the Big 12, it’s hard to really master the art of stopping it, to the extent you can. It’s obvious that Big 12 style offense is indeed superior to the offense played in other conferences. It’s not just the lack of good defenses in the Big 12, it’s also that the tactics and skill are superior.
But anyways, Georgia tried to out-tough Texas in the trenches and win that way and failed. That’s pretty promising for a program that isn’t what they will be in future seasons as a downhill rushing team. Well, save for their QB run package…
Quick thought no. 3: Ehlinger put the T back in Texas
Texas utilized what I like to call the “dread-wing” formation in this game.
This is schematic end game in the spread offense. They kept Beck in the box in position to block for QB power and then flexed out four receivers to put Georgia in an impossible bind. You can’t get safety help over Johnson AND Humphrey here and then also get six defenders in the box to stop six blockers. That means that Texas had a chance to win the point of attack and get Ehlinger into the second level with downhill momentum. Georgia had no answers unless they were backed up on the goal line to where they could just bring their safeties into the box. There are no answers except to beat blockers working with angles and then try to tackle Ehlinger, both of which are pretty difficult.
The Tim Tebow comparisons have always been pretty good and Ehlinger lived up to them, taking shots and watching Bulldogs bounce off of him while pounding Georgia for three touchdowns and 75 yards on 19 carries (after removing sack yardage). If you were curious whether 230 pounds of will and athleticism could translate against higher level opponents, wonder no longer.
Props to Lil’Jordan Humphrey as well, who took a lot of big shots moving the chains over the middle over the course of the game and ended up delivering the final blow late in the fourth quarter. Mess with the bull, get the horns.
Quick thought no. 4: Georgia ran into a buzzsaw
Georgia coughed the ball up three times, if you count the botched punt where the kicker’s knee went down while he was corralling a low snap. D’Andre Swift fumbled twice and Texas recovered one, should have recovered both but Gary Johnson tried to scoop and score on the second one and wasn’t able to come up with the ball. Jake Fromm was confounded by the Texas defense and threw a pick to P.J. Locke an instant before taking a hit from Anthony Wheeler.
Those two players had their struggles facing Big 12 offenses this season but they were ready to go in this one.
The Bulldogs didn’t have a good gameplan for this contest. It was obvious enough from film this season that Texas had a physical and tactically lethal run defense but could be had if you spread them out, executed with tempo, and caught them in some of their frequently poorly executed overload blitzes on third down.
If you see Texas line up with 2-3 DL to one side of a formation and everyone else standing up, you can be about 99% sure those DL are going to slant to the opposite side and be replaced by multiple blitzers who may or may not be coming in a timely fashion. Georgia certainly wasn’t shocked to find that to be the case and converted 6-13 third downs. However, they didn’t press their advantages in the passing game but got caught trying to run inside zone into run blitzes time and time again.
Also notable, Texas trotted out a three-safety tandem of Brandon Jones, P.J. Locke, and B.J. Foster in this game. Those guys all play downhill and bring hat really well, but all three can also be had in the passing game. Georgia wasn’t ready to play that style of game. They figured that they could be their normal big, bad SEC selves and out-physical Texas on both sides of the ball en route to victory. They were wrong.
Quick thought no. 5: Texas is back!!!!
Sam Ehlinger said so and if you disagree you’re welcome to take it up with him.