NEW ORLEANS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Bevo’s pregame strategy was to run right at the Bulldogs.
Once the football started, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger took the same approach with outstanding results.
Ehlinger ran for three touchdowns, the Texas defense held Georgia to seven points for most of the game, 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.
The quarterback’s impressive performance came after a startling pregame display from Bevo, the team’s huge longhorn steer mascot. About an hour before kickoff, he charged through a barricade and toward Georgia’s red sweater-clad bulldog mascot Uga X.
A few people, including photographers, were knocked to the ground, but there were no reported injuries and Bevo was quickly restrained.
No. 14 Texas (10-4) continued its quick rise under coach Tom Herman, capping his second season with a Sugar Bowl win that will surely 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. The different position groups — like receivers and linebackers — stayed on the field to take pictures together as the Longhorns obviously relished every moment.
“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, finally 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. That is always 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.”
No. 6 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 Southeastern Conference 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 fumbled deep in Georgia’s own territory, giving Texas possession at the 12. Three plays later, Ehlinger deftly 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.”
Fromm completed 20 of 34 passes for 212 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left to pull within 28-21 but Texas recovered the ensuing onside kick.
“They did a really good job game planning for us,” Fromm said of the Texas defense. “They had an entire month to do so. They were showing a lot of different looks. They were constantly mixing stuff up.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)