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Inside the Numbers: Texas dominated the Georgia ground game

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The talk of the bowl previews was the Georgia ground game, but the Longhorns defense set the tone throughout the entire game.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Georgia vs Texas Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

After a month of hearing about how overmatched they’d be against the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs, the Texas Longhorns proved they belong among the elites once again with a 28-21 win in the Sugar Bowl.

Many thought that Texas’s best chance of winning was in the passing game, but it was the defense and another record-setting performance from its quarterback that led to the win.

Georgia: 30 attempts, 72 yards (2.4 yards per attempt)

One of the biggest narratives surrounding the Bulldogs this season was the dominance of their ground game. Heading into the game, they were one of the top ground offenses in the country by most measures, featuring a 1,000-yard back in D’Andre Swift and another in Elijah Holyfield who joined him in the 1,000-yard club against the Longhorns.

The Texas defense managed to neutralize that threat for the most part and forced Georgia to play fairly one-dimensional football.

The Bulldogs’ 72 rushing yards is the lowest team rushing total the Bulldogs have turned in since their 40-17 loss to the Auburn Tigers in 2017. This season, Georgia was held without a rushing touchdown just one other time, a 43-29 win over the Missouri Tigers that featured a defensive and special teams touchdowns.

Swift struggled to get going early, fumbling the ball twice in the first quarter and never seemed to find running room. His 12 yards ties his lowest total of the season and the second-lowest total of his career. Holyfield had a better night than his counterpart, as his 62 yards pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

Texas Defense: Two Turnovers

Turnovers did not appear to be a statistic to watch heading into the game, but Texas actually turns opponents over quite frequently, while the Bulldogs rarely turned the ball over. Two timely turnovers, a first-quarter fumble by Swift and a third-quarter interception from Jake Fromm, allowed the Longhorns to keep their stranglehold on Georgia.

The fumble was Swift’s first fumble of the season and Fromm’s sixth interception of the year, both causing the normally potent Georgia offense to sputter.

The Sugar Bowl was just the Bulldogs third multiple-turnover game of the season, after coughing the ball up four times in the loss to the LSU Tigers and twice in a big win over Kentucky. Ball security was actually an issue for Georgia this year, losing the ball via fumble eight times, which comes in at No. 51 nationally.

Turning opponents over multiple times is actually one of the key indicators for Texas’s success this season. The Longhorns are 4-4 this year without a turnover or only turning the ball over a single time, but they’re 6-0 when they force multiple turnovers.

Sam Ehlinger: 19-27, 169 yards. 21 rushes, 64 yards, 3 TD.

You cannot discuss the Longhorns’ Sugar Bowl matchup without brining up the performance of sophomore quarterback, and game MVP, Sam Ehlinger.

Ehlinger was hot out of the gate, going 5-for-5 for 61 yards through the air to drive the Longhorns down the field. He capped it with his 14th rushing touchdown of the season, tying Vince Young and Don Whittington for the most rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback in school history.

In the fourth quarter, after four attempts from the one-yard line, Ehlinger broke the plane to score his 15th of the season, taking sole ownership of that record.

With that score, Ehlinger became just the sixth Power 5 quarterback in the last 20 years to pass for more than 25 touchdowns and rush for more than 15. He is the only one of them to not win the Heisman Trophy.

He ends his second year as one of the most productive players in school history, both in a single season and in his career.

His 3,296 passing yards puts him at No. 5 all-time for a single season at Texas, behind Colt McCoy’s three seasons and Major Applewhite, while his 25 passing touchdowns puts him again behind McCoy’s three incredible seasons and Vince Young’s National Championship year. He sits No. 7 for the most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a career, with potentially two more seasons at the helm for the Longhorns.

So now Texas heads into the offseason once again on a high note, hoping to continue to improve year-over-year. With another top-10 recruiting class, a number of redshirts from the 2018 group, and the potential of bringing back its dynamic duo of Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, the sky may be the limit for Texas in 2019.

Sam Ehlinger says that Texas is back. Now you can let everyone know.