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Inside the Numbers: The good and the bad of the Alamo Bowl

It was a frustrating loss for Texas, but there’s much to build on for the future.

Valero Alamo Bowl - Washington v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The season didn’t end like the Texas Longhorns hoped, dropping their final game of the season to the Washington Huskies in the Alamo Bowl, 27-20, suffering their first bowl loss since 2014.

While the offensive game plan and execution may have left something to be desired, especially from the ground game, Texas showed some promise on both sides of the ball that they can hopefully build on for the coming seasons.

Texas rushing: 18 carries, 51 yards (2.83 ypc), TD

When discussing Texas in the Alamo Bowl, especially as it relates to the offensive struggles, you have to start with the lack of both emphasis and production from the ground game.

The 18 carries is the second-lowest number of attempts in the program’s history, just one ahead of 1943’s 14-7 loss to Southwestern — a program that disbanded just three years later. It ties the 2014 beating at the hands of Arkansas in the Texas Bowl as the most recent example and is the low mark under Steve Sarkisian.

Sarkisian, serving as the play caller for Texas, ran the ball just twice on third down for a total of five yards, in spite of the Longhorns having eight third-down attempts of four yards or shorter. Both of those carries went to Keilan Robinson, with Jonathon Brooks finishing the game with just six carries.

For its part, the Washington ground defense, which had not seen a team go below 30 attempts all year, turned in one of the best outings of the year — just nine yards better than their non-conference win over Michigan State in Week 3.

Quinn Ewers: 31-of-47 passing, 369 yards, TD

While far from perfect, Ewers needed a performance he could build on heading into the offseason and managed to do just that against the Huskies. His 369 yards sets the freshman bowl record for Texas and is the third-best bowl performance overall, sitting behind Major Applewhite in the 2001 Holiday Bowl and Colt McCoy in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.

It also is the third-most in any game by a freshman, sitting again behind Applewhite, as well as Sam Ehlinger’s 2017 outing against Kansas State.

In spite of his struggles this year, he still statistically turned in one of the better performances by a freshman in school history. His 369 yards marks his second 300-yard game of the year, tying him with Shane Buechele for No. 9 in school history, puts him at 2,177 yards and 15 touchdowns for the year, the No. 5 and No. 3 freshman performances, respectively.

Texas passing defense: 287 yards, 5.22 ypa, 2 TD

One of the big questions for the Longhorns heading into the Alamo Bowl was how would they match up against one of the top passing offenses in the country, and once again they answered the call and the questions.

The Alamo Bowl performance by the Huskies marked their lowest passing yardage total and yards per attempt totals of the year, for an offense that feasted on big plays all year. After the game-opening 35-yard flea flicker, the Huskies had just three passes longer than 15 yards — none of which resulted in a touchdown. Michael Penix, who will likely be an early-season name to watch for the Heisman in 2023, had his second-lowest outing, just ahead of a blowout win over Colorado — a game he didn’t finish.

The passing defense seemed to find a different level in the final four games of the season, after giving up three-consecutive 300-plus performances in conference play. Against its final four opponents, Texas allowed just 208 yards per game, 5.5 yards per attempt, and came up with three of its 10 interceptions.

In spite of how it ended, Texas finished this season three wins better than they finished a year ago and was still in the conversation for the conference championship game in the final week of the season. The Longhorns are seemingly on an upward trajectory heading into the second full offseason under Sarkisian, but based on recent history Texas will need to prove on the field that they are up to the standard fans expect.