On Sunday, the Texas Longhorns received an invitation to the 2019 Valero Alamo Bowl to face off against the No. 12 Utah Utes, so the school released statements from head coach Tom Herman and two team leaders, senior defensive end Malcolm Roach and junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
Herman expressed his excitement about landing the game in San Antonio, the first bowl to select a Big 12 team after Oklahoma landed in the College Football Playoffs and Baylor filled the guaranteed spot in the Sugar Bowl. In fact, just going by the standings, Texas could have dropped all the way to the Texas Bowl or the Liberty Bowl after finishing in a four-way tie for third place in the conference standings.
Instead, the Alamo Bowl selection committee bet on the Texas brand drawing high ratings and selling tickets in the school’s home state.
“We’re thrilled to be the Big 12 representative at the Alamo Bowl. Our seniors were able to close their careers at home with a win, and now they’ll have the opportunity to play their last game as Longhorns in the state of Texas in front of so many of their friends and family,” Herman said. “It’s a special thing for our whole team, but most of all, our seniors. We want to thank the Alamo Bowl for inviting us. It’s a first-class organization in a fantastic city, and we couldn’t be more excited to have this opportunity against a tremendous opponent in Utah. We’ll put in a ton of work to get ready for the game, but we can’t wait to get to San Antonio and look forward to playing in front of all of our fans at the Alamodome on New Year’s Eve.”
Understandably, Herman hadn’t started to scout Utah, which finished 11-2 and played for the Pac-12 title on Friday, but he was able to offer an outline of the Utes program led by one of the nation’s best defenses.
“I don’t know a whole lot (about Utah) other than what the stats say, but I do know Coach Whittingham and his reputation, and that both of us worked for Coach Urban Meyer. Coach Whittingham has had some unbelievable defenses in the past, and this year is no different. In terms of rushing yards, yards per play, all of that, we know that our offense is going to be in for a big-time challenge, and our defense, as well. I know their quarterback is second in the country in completion percentage, a very efficient guy who has obviously led them to the Pac-12 Championship Game. They’re really a complete team. Without studying each side on video, I do know that Coach Whittingham is going to hang his hat on defense, and this year is no exception.”
The Utah defense ranks No. 4 nationally in yards per rush, No. 4 nationally in yards per play, and tied for fifth nationally in scoring defense. It’s elite.
Consider Ehlinger excited about the challenge, however.
“We’re all extremely excited to be able to play against such an incredible opponent like Utah. What they’ve done this season has been spectacular,” Ehlinger said. “We’re also looking forward to playing so close to home and in the state of Texas, and we can’t wait for all of our fans to be in San Antonio at the Alamodome on New Year’s Eve.
“Being able to have one final game with these seniors, who have done so much for this University, means a lot to us. To play against such a great opponent in such a great venue is a blessing, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Utah quarterback is Tyler Huntley, who ranks second nationally in completion percentage — behind runaway leader Joe Burrow — and fifth in passer rating. And despite not completing passes at the rate of Burrow, Huntley is tied with Burrow in yards per attempt at 10.7, good for third nationally.
“I’m very excited to get the opportunity to play Utah,” Roach said. “They’re a great team that’s had a great run this year. It’s going to be a challenge, and we’re very excited for the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country. Then to play in the state of Texas is something that’s always great. We have a great fan base in San Antonio, and it’s just an hour down the road from our fans in Austin. We’re just going to enjoy the bowl experience and the Alamo Bowl.
“Any time we get ready for bowl games it means a lot, and we know it’s business that we have to handle. Everybody knows it’s going to be the seniors’ last game in a Texas uniform, so it’s a great situation to be able to get ready for one of the best teams in the country and finish our UT careers off in Texas.”