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SAN ANTONIO — The Utah Utes entered the Alamo Bowl with the No. 3 total defense, allowing 256.2 yards per game. Teams averaged 70 yards per game on the ground against a talented and disciplined defense.
Texas amassed 231 yards on the ground against the No. 11 Utes as part of a convincing 38-10 Alamo Bowl win where second and third string Longhorns were able to receive playing time in the final stages of the game.
“We knew coming into that they’re an incredible front seven,” Sam Ehlinger said. “Offensive linemen knew they had to be physical and win their matchups, and I think they did exactly that.”
Ehlinger won player of the game honors for the second straight bowl game. He passed for 201 yards and three scores and added a rushing touchdown as part of Texas’ dominating night on the ground. His 73 yards didn’t earn the honor of being the game’s leading rusher; that belonged to Keaontay Ingram.
Ingram rushed for 108 yards on 13 carries, including a 49-yard touchdown run that put the game at its final 38-10 score. He added 26 yards and a touchdown through the air, and had a highlight-reel hurdle of a Ute defender.
The 49-yard touchdown from Ingram was one of six different rushing plays of 10 or more yards.
“Our players, wow did they play hard and we knew that’s what it was going to take,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said. “We knew this was probably going to be the most physical team that we played all year, and our guys rose to the occasion.”
D’Shawn Jamison’s 71-yard second quarter punt return set up Texas’ first touchdown, a five-yard touchdown reception by Collin Johnson. That was the only six-point score of the half by both teams.
Interim defensive coordinator Craig Naivar took over playcalling duties and spun a gem in his first time in the role at Texas. Utah totaled 254 yards on 60 plays, 128 of them on the ground and 126 through the air.
The Ute offense didn’t cross midfield until just before halftime, and that drive ultimately ended with a punt. The Longhorns fared much better in their ability to finish drives. Of Texas’ 11 drives, only the second drive ended with a three-and-out. Six of them ended in scores, and only the first ended with a field goal.
His gameplan consistently put Joseph Ossai on the edge rather than off the ball, and Ossai excelled. He recorded a game-high nine tackles including 3.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles for loss.
“Craig Naivar and that defensive staff did an unbelievable job getting these guys ready for what they were about to face,” Texas head coach tom Herman said after the game.
Ossai had several young teammates with him on the field including former walk-on linebacker Cort Jaquess, who received the start at middle linebacker in his hometown. Freshmen Chris Adimora, and first-year player Juwan Mitchell contributed to the defensive effort.
“We just trusted them,” Ossai said about the interim defensive staff. “We bought in 100 percent and went out there and executed. I think that was the key thing tonight was executing.”
Texas’ 28 second-half points allowed the backups to enter the game late, with Casey Thompson receiving mop up snaps at quarterback.
Though Texas’ 2019 disappointed at many junctures, the end gives the 2016 senior class their third straight bowl win. No senior class at Texas this decade could say that save for Malcolm Roach and his fellow Longhorns.
“It just shows you what you could do when you stay together with your brothers,” Roach said. “We’ve been through so much together and the way we led this year, it wasn’t always on the same page, but it always was the same message that we wanted to get through to the whole team.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of everybody in my class.”
Texas enters an important offseason hoping it can parlay another bowl victory into loftier achievements in 2020. It’s a lot easier to do that with a win, and Texas will try to ride that as much as they can before the first snap of the 2020 season.
“It can take us a boost us into the offseason,” Ossai said. “We can have that on our shoulders and going through the offseason because there’s no ball game. So if you need to be reminded of something, it’s definitely great to go into the offseason with a win like this.”