Ewers, Texas produce high drama but come up short in Sugar Bowl CFP semifinal

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Quinn Ewers kept talking about what’s next for Texas as if he might be a part of that.

“I’m a human being and I understand what’s ahead,” said Ewers, who has the option of turning pro in the coming offseason. “But I know that we’re going to work as hard as we can to try to be back. And that’s all we can really do, is attack the offseason the right way and just continue to build this team to what it’s capable of being.”

If Ewers isn’t back, his last performance of this season was a memorable one — even if it fell one 13-yard completion short of the result he and the Longhorns wanted in a 37-31 loss to Washington in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl on Monday night.

Texas was down by as much as 13 in the fourth quarter and trailed by 37-28 after a Washington field goal with just 2:40 to go.

After using a mix of scrambles and clutch throws to drive Texas for a field goal with 1:09 to play, Ewers got the ball back in his hands at the Texas 31 with 45 seconds left — thanks to a Longhorns defensive stand in which they used remaining timeouts to preserve time.

Ewers then marched the third-seeded Longhorns from their own 31 to the 12 of second-seeded Washington in 30 seconds, highlighted by 41-yard completion to Jordan Whittington and a 16-yarder to Jaydon Blue.

That gave Texas four quick plays to try to get into the end zone against a Washington defense that appeared to be reeling with the game on the line.

“He had made some big-time throws at critical moments, especially late in the ballgame. Gave us a chance to win,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “That doesn’t happen unless he’s played his heart out and making some really big-time throws.”

But red zone possessions have been problematic for Texas this season. Entering the Sugar Bowl, they’d converted just 27 of 55 possessions inside an opponent’s 20 into touchdowns.

A swing pass to Blue lost a yard before he got out of bounds. Then came three straight attempts to the end zone – two intended for Adonai Mitchell, who was playing in his fifth CFP and had touchdown catches in all five.

The second-seeded Huskies completed their narrow escape when the last of those passes sailed too far toward the sideline for Mitchell to come down with it in bounds.

“Just was looking to give my guys an opportunity to go make a play,” Ewers said. “At the end of the day, that’s all you can really do.”

Arch Manning — grandson of former Saints QB Archie Manning and nephew of Super Bowl-winning QBs Peyton and Eli Manning — will be in his second year at Texas next fall after ascending from third string to Ewers‘ backup by the end of this season.

And now that Ewers is a bona fide NFL prospect, he arguably would be wise to turn pro in 2024 rather than risk either an injury in college or the possibility of being beaten out by Manning for the starting job at Texas next season.

In any event, the record will show that Ewers completed 24 of 43 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown without a turnover and also rushed for 54 yards in his final game of the 2023 campaign.

“We all played our hearts out. And I don’t question anybody’s effort in that room – in that locker room at all,” Ewers said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way that we attacked this year because I know most of y’all didn’t believe that we would be here right now. And we’re going to continue to focus on the opinions inside our four walls and continue to build.”

Copyright © 2024 The Washington Times, LLC.

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