Texas Football takes the Texas Bowl thanks to … the Lethal Weapon

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 27: Michael Dickson
HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 27: Michael Dickson /

One of the most bizarre college football seasons in Texas Longhorns history ended with a punter as MVP of the Texas Bowl.

If you don’t know, now you know. Michael Dickson a/k/a the Lethal Weapon helped ensure that the Texas Longhorns won the Texas Bowl 33-16 over Missouri in an important Big 12 vs. SEC clash held at NRG Stadium in Houston.

When the offense struggled to find an identity throughout the regular season, Dickson was called on to pin opposing offenses deep in their own territory. He did just that on his way to winning the Ray Guy Award.

Then, in the last game of the season, the offense struggled to put anything together in the second and third quarters. But, Dickson was so lethal continually pinning Missouri deep in their own territory that he won MVP of the game.

Dickson punted 11 times in the Texas Bowl. 10 of those punts went inside the 20 yardline. 8 of those punts went inside the 10 yardline. He shanked a punt in the second quarter that served as his mulligan. We’ll forgive him for that mishap, as another one of his magical punts late in the third quarter led to Missouri QB Drew Lock committing a safety.

It was almost comical how another failed third down opportunity for the Longhorns offense instantly turned into excitement watching Dickson do his thing. It’s why the junior from Australia is leaving for the NFL to ply his trade at the next level. The Longhorns sure will miss him, though.

Texas Jumped Out to Early Lead in Texas Bowl

Before this game turned into the Michael Dickson show, the Longhorns jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead.

On the opening drive, Texas benefited from three Missouri defensive penalties to set up freshman RB Daniel Young catching a wide-open pass from QB Shane Buechele to start the scoring.

Later in the quarter, Sam Ehlinger chekced in and found John Burt open for a corner TD to give Texas a two-score advantage.

Missouri could not get anything going and Texas had ample opportunities to blow this game open early with terrific field position. However, the Longhorns struggled to convert third downs and string together first downs the rest of the half.

If you just looked at the box score and did not watch the game, you would be scratching your head to figure out how Texas won.

  • Total Offense: only 280 yards
  • Passing Yards: only 167 total between Buechele and Ehlinger
  • Rushing Yards: 113 yards on 42 carries for 2.7 yards per rush

One of the big keys, though, was zero turnovers. At the very least, the offense did not give away the game or give Missouri momentum, which was the case in Texas’ regular season finale against Texas Tech.

In the Texas Bowl, the Longhorns only picked up 17 first downs in the game — the same as Missouri. Also, Texas went 6-18 on third downs. Fortunately, Missouri was only 3-14 thanks to an outstanding defensive performance coupled with the electric boot of Michael Dickson.

Texas Longhorns Defense was Stellar Throughout

The Defensive unit led by DC Todd Orlando flew to the ball all night long and stymied Drew Lock for nearly the entire game. Their mulligan was allowing a 79-yard TD pass on the first play of the second half. It was a tip-of-the-hat perfect pass from Lock between two Texas defenders.

But, the defense only allowed a field goal the rest of the game. That FG made the score 21-16, which was the closest Missouri got all night.

After a safety made it 23-16, the Texas offense finally moved the ball again to chew up the clock. This led to Josh Rowland connecting on a field goal to make the score 26-16. The defense took over from there, helping set up a final TD rush by senior WR Armanti Foreman to seal the game at 33-16.

Earlier in the game, the defense got on the scoreboard when Anthony Wheeler picked up a fumble and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. That made the game 21-7 and cut off Missouri’s comeback attempt.

In total, the defense collected four turnovers — three fumble recoveries and one interception. Included was a fumble recovery by Breckyn Hager, who wore No. 60 in the game to honor legendary Texas linebacker Tommy Nobis.

It was a great collective effort from the defense. This unit was missing starting LB Malik Jefferson due to injury, Jim Thorpe finalist DeShon Elliott due to NFL Draft preparation, and other players due to suspensions.

The Longhorns still had the “Lethal Weapon” Michael Dickson, though, despite declaring early for the NFL Draft. And, Texas rode him to a big bowl victory to cap off Tom Herman’s first season as Longhorns head coach.

  • Great punting
  • Elite defense
  • Average and inconsistent offense

Next: Top 15 Texas QBs all-time

Texas knows what they need to address in the offseason to build on this important bowl victory. Now, the 2018 season can begin in earnest as Texas seeks national relevancy and competitiveness again.