NEW ORLEANS — With a defense that was ranked 14th in the country in total defense, Georgia’s performance in the 2019 Sugar Bowl was not enough to handle a solid, balanced Texas offense, and it resulted in a 28-21 defeat for the Bulldogs.
A lacking component in the defense was the ability to tackle. Throughout the entirety of the game, there were missed tackles and missed opportunities for sacks. Georgia consistently missed key chances to stop a run or sack dual-threat Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
“I thought their quarterback managed the game well with his quarterback run play,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He really hurt us. We missed tackles and didn't finish on him defensively.”
Not finishing defensively on Ehlinger led to him scoring all three of Texas' touchdowns on short running plays. His longest scoring run was a 9-yard run in the second quarter.
Inside linebacker Monty Rice said the main issue he saw was the number of missed tackles, and defensive back Richard LeCounte agreed. But neither could pinpoint one specific reason as to why there were so many.
“I don’t really know what it was,” LeCounte said. “Our focus wasn’t really there. That’s what really contributed to all the different things that we did.”
Execution played a major role in the team’s tackling ability, and Rice attributed the lack of “wrapping up” the ball carrier and Ehlinger as another factor. The miscues added to Texas’ ability to run the ball when Ehlinger or its running backs saw an opening.
Texas’ offense finished with 355 total yards, and 178 rushing yards. Running back Tre Watson ran for 91 yards, and Ehlinger finished with 64 rushing yards of his own. The Bulldogs recorded two sacks on Ehlinger, but Rice believed there should have been more.
Ehlinger also passed for 169 yards and completed 19 of his 27 pass attempts. Georgia struggled in its abilities to tackle in pass coverage.
The two sacks offered momentum for the defense, and LeCounte said they used those moments as opportunities to keep pushing. But the moments weren’t enough to make up for the number of missed tackles that allowed the Texas offense to execute.
“We didn't contain,” defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. “We didn't have a level pass rush most of the time. And we didn't get [Ehlinger] on the ground. When you don't do that, he makes plays.”