December 27, 2017
2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
TEXAS wins 2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl
Texas Longhorns defeat Missouri Tigers 33-16
HOUSTON – Behind a stellar defensive performance and precision punting by junior Michael Dickson, The University of Texas Longhorns (7-6) defeated the Missouri Tigers (7-6), 33-16, in the 2017 Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Longhorn defense forced four turnovers and scored nine points while holding a Missouri offense that entered the game averaging 511.5 yards of total offense to just 390 yards.
Dickson, a unanimous All-American and this season’s Ray Guy Award recipient and Big 12 Conference Special Teams Player of the Year, added Texas Bowl MVP to his accolades after 10 of his 11 punts pinned the Tigers inside their own 15-yard line. Eight Mizzou drives started at or inside their own 10-yard line, including two at the 3-yard line, one at the 4-yard line and another at the 2-yard line.
Texas received the opening kick and quickly moved down field, taking a 7-0 lead just 1:32 into the game when sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele found freshman running back Daniel Young wide open on a wheel route for a 22-yard touchdown. The drive was aided by two Missouri penalties for 25 yards, while Young picked up 12 yards on pair of runs before scoring on the pass from Buechele.
Young set career-highs with 64 receiving yards and 112 all-purpose yards on the day, while the score was the first receiving touchdown of his career.
The Longhorns’ defense forced a three-and-out on Missouri’s first possession, pushing the Tigers back three yards, allowing the offense to start their next possession at midfield following a 35-yard punt.
A keeper by Buechele for a 10-yard gain and a 4-yard run by Young advanced UT to the Mizzou 36, but the drive stalled. Dickson entered and pinned the Tigers deep in their own territory with a 33-yard punt that was downed at the 3-yard line.
Texas extended the lead late in the first quarter when freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger connected with junior wide receiver John Burtfor a 7-yard toe-tap touchdown along the left side of the end zone to give Texas a 14-0 lead with 3:58 remaining in the frame. Ehlinger opened the drive with a 42-yard completion to Young, then scrambled for nine yards to the Mizzou 4-yard line. After losing three yards on a carry, Ehlinger hit Burt for the score.
On the day, Ehlinger completed 11-of-15 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 17 yards.
Both sides traded punts over the next four drives, with the Texas defense dominating the opening frame, forcing Mizzou into four three-and-outs to open the game and yielding only one first down in the first quarter.
Missouri got on the board early in the second quarter, wrapping up a 5-play, 50-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Ish Witter to cut the Texas lead to 14-7 with 12:10 remaining in the first half.
The magical season for the Texas defense picked up momentum on the next Missouri possession when junior nickel back P.J. Locke forced Witter to fumble at the Missouri 31. Junior linebacker Anthony Wheeler scooped it up at the 38 and raced down the left sideline for a touchdown, the first of his career, to give Texas a 21-7 advantage. The score was an FBS-leading eighth non-offensive touchdown on the year for the Longhorns, the most by a Texas team since the 2009 squad notched 11.
Texas forced another turnover on the next Mizzou possession when junior cornerback Davante Davis put a helmet on the ball and forced a fumble by tight end Al Okwuegbunam, which was picked up by junior linebacker Breckyn Hager at the UT 44-yard line. The fumble recovery by Hager was the first of his career.
Hager wore No. 60 in honor of Longhorn Legend Tommy Nobis, who passed away two weeks ago today on Dec. 13. The number 60 is retired in honor of Nobis and has been worn by only by six other Longhorns, including Hager’s father Britt, who donned the number from 1984-1988 during his All-American career. Number “60” decals were prominent on the back of every Longhorn helmet.
Looking to take advantage of the turnover, Buechele connected on a 21-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Collin Johnson on the next play. However, a Longhorn penalty pushed the Horns back and they were forced to punt with 5:10 remaining in the half.
The scoreboard remained unchanged for the rest of the half as the teams headed to the locker rooms for the break.
Missouri came out firing to open the second half, scoring on the first play from scrimmage with a 79-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Lock to wide receiver Johnathon Johnson. A poor snap resulted in failed point after attempt by the Tigers, making the Texas lead 21-13.
The Tigers tacked on a 28-yard field goal with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter, making the score 21-16.
On the next Mizzou possession, a bad snap sailed over Lock’s right shoulder and out of the back of the end zone for a safety, increasing the Texas lead to seven, 23-16.
A 36-yard kick return by senior Armanti Foreman on the ensuing kickoff and a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty against Mizzou helped set up a fourth quarter, 41-yard field goal by junior kicker Joshua Rowland to extend the Texas lead to 26-16 with 12:15 remaining in the game.
With 10:45 left to play, the Horns’ began chewing up clock, putting together a 12-play, 42-yard drive that took 7:25 to execute and culminated with Dickson pinning Missouri at their 4-yard line. The highlight of the drive came on third-and-15 at the UT 41, when Foreman caught a pass behind the line of scrimmage, then sprinted 16 yards for the first down that kept the clock rolling.
Two plays later, Davis intercepted a Lock pass at the Missouri 14-yard line to seal the game for the Horns.
A penalty set the Horns up at the Mizzou 29, but after sophomore running back Kyle Porter rushed three times for nine yards, Foreman scored on an 18-yard reverse, with Ehlinger setting up a key block at the 3-yard line, to put Texas up 33-16.
Missouri looked to score in the waning seconds of the game, but junior defensive end Charles Omenihu strip-sacked Lock at the UT 32 with 17 seconds remaining and junior linebacker Edwin Freeman fell on it at the 28 to end the threat.
Lock had a FBS-leading 43 touchdown passes as play begin, but was held to just one on the day.
Junior linebacker Gary Johnson set a career-high with 10 tackles to lead the defense, while Locke had seven and Davis and Wheeler recorded six each.
The Missouri offense had the seventh-highest third down conversion percentage in the FBS (0.472) as play began, but Texas defense ranked fourth nationally (0.276) coming in and allowed the Tigers to convert on just 3-of-14 third downs.
Ehlinger and Buechele combined to complete 17-of-29 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while completing passes to nine different receivers.
The Texas Bowl victory is the first bowl victory for Texas since defeating Oregon State, 31-27, in the 2012 Alamo Bowl.