NEW ORLEANS — Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger and the Longhorns have plans to take ‘a huge step’ against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday night.
Ehlinger, a sophomore who already has 19 starts, said beating the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs would provide a major boost for a Texas program that’s last post-New Year’s bowl appearance was its BCS title game loss to Alabama nine years ago.
“This is an elite game, this is an elite team, and winning this game would put us in a position to understand that next year we have the ability to do whatever we want to do if we work like we have this season,” Ehlinger said.
“I think it would be a huge step for this team, a team that was 7-6 last year and 5-7 the year before, to be able to beat a team that was competing for the national championship last year,” Ehlinger said.
Sam Ehlinger/Curtis Compton, AJC
“I think it would prove a lot to our guys on our team that when we play our best, and obviously we’re going to need out best in order to win, when we play our best we’re really hard to beat, and I think we’ve shown that throughout the year.”
Texas coach Tom Herman said he believes Ehlinger has improved more from his freshman season to sophomore season than any quarterback in the country.
“Sam has completely elevated his game, he’s a different guy, and I think that speaks a lot to continuity, too, with this being the first time in five years I believe where Texas has had the same offensive system for back‑to‑back years,” Herman said at his Monday morning press conference.
“So he feels very, very comfortable in the system, (and) he makes checks that sometimes we haven’t even talked about through the week of preparation,” Herman said. “He just understands the offense. And he sees defenses as good as I’ve coached. And then his physical toughness is something that the players really, really rally around.”
Ehlinger was complimentary of the Georgia defense he will face at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“They are good at moving their fronts around, causing pressure and movement from the quarterbacks,” Ehlinger said. “The guys they have in the secondary, the speed and cover skills they provide is incredible, so I think all around and overall they are polished on every end in their categories of positioning, that’s why they are so good.”
Ehlinger have three reasons why Texas has already taken a big step this season by qualifying for a New Year’s Six Bowl and playing in the Big 12 Championship Game.
“I think consistency, with coaching, and that provides trust between players and coaches,” Ehlinger said. “I think understanding would be the second one, because when you understand what you are doing and what you need to do to be successful, then guys are able to play free.
“The third point is we’re playing faster, and more fearless, there’s no evaluating, we’re not trying to over-control things, because we want to be good and do things well. I think guys are just putting their foot in the ground and going.”
Ehlinger is among those willing to plant and go, rushing for 418 yards and 13 touchdowns this season in addition to passing for 3,123 yards and 25 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
Texas football QB Sam Ehlinger
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