UT’s Ehlinger: Sugar Bowl win shows ‘we’re back’

2:57 AM ET

  • Sam Khan Jr.ESPN Staff Writer

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    • Covers Texas A&M and the SEC.
    • Joined ESPN in 2012.
    • Graduate of the University of Houston.

NEW ORLEANS — The oft-asked question about Texas football got an emphatic answer on Tuesday night, at least as far as sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger was concerned.

Ehlinger, who was named MVP in the No. 15 Longhorns’ 28-21 win over No. 5 Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, stood on stage during the trophy presentation in the middle of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and was asked what the win did to springboard Texas into next season.

Ehlinger, with a sly smile, leaned into the microphone and said: “Longhorn Nation — we’re baaaaaaaaack!”

The burnt-orange-clad fans went wild. And some players agreed.

“He’s absolutely right,” Texas linebacker Gary Johnson said. “That’s something that we did, the coaches did. They instilled the culture in us, and we took it and ran with it. Like he said, Texas is back.”

Defensive lineman Charles Omenihu said he embraced Ehlinger’s confidence.

“When he said that, I was like, ‘Keep saying it,'” Omenihu said. “That’s the confidence this man exudes to the offense and to the whole team, and I’ve commended him so many times. And I’ll commend him again for just being the guy he is and the way he is because it’s really been transcending and inspiring to everybody on this whole team and the whole university.”

The phrase, originally uttered by Joe Tessitore following the Longhorns’ overtime win over Notre Dame to open the 2016 season, seemed like a proclamation at the time, but after the team went 5-7 and missed a bowl game, it became a punchline. With the Longhorns clinching their first 10-win season since 2009, it isn’t being used in a joking manner so much anymore.

“I think he was right,” Texas linebacker Anthony Wheeler said. “Us going out there, the score might not say it, but we kind of dominated, I feel. Him saying that, it meant everything.”

Asked if his heart dropped when he heard Ehlinger say the words, Texas coach Tom Herman said, “Yes!” with a laugh.

“I’ll never know what that means, ‘Is Texas back?'” Herman said. “It could mean a lot of different things. And so I’ll never comment on that. I know we’re headed in the right direction. I don’t ever want to give any kind of finality to where we’re at because we are always making progress.”

Some players took a similarly reserved approach.

“We’re gonna see,” Texas receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey said. “We’ve got a whole other season next year and a whole lot of work to do this offseason, so we’re gonna see.”

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