01 Jan

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Horns’ defense wants to prove Texas is back with Sugar Bowl win

The Longhorn defense is intent on proving that Texas is back, now and into the future (Photo by Don Bender/Horns Illustrated).

With a week in New Orleans to prepare for Georgia, what has the Texas defense learned about their New Year’s Day foe?

“How physical they can run the ball,” senior defensive lineman Chris Nelson said. “They have two explosive running backs, a nice quarterback and a nice offensive line. So, they have the whole nine yards. Their offense is nice.”

Even as the Longhorns enter the game as double-digit underdogs to the Bulldogs, not a single player on the Texas ‘D’ is worried about what Georgia’s schedule in the tough SEC means today.

“We really don't change how we train. We take it day by day,” senior linebacker Anthony Wheeler said. “We have really been focusing on the run lately because Georgia likes to run.”

Never one to back down from a challenge, senior defensive lineman Charles Omenihu sized-up the Bulldogs in comparing them to Oklahoma, the toughest team Texas has played. Up until now.

"Size-wise, they are right there. Physicality-wise, I think Georgia is a little more physical than Oklahoma's offensive line,” Omenihu said. “Things can get wacky, but Georgia is right there with it. I would say Georgia is a more complete offensive line.”

While several Bulldogs have gone out of their way to compliment the Texas defense, the Horns have heard it and appreciate it, but aren’t going to let that soften them.

“It is a great compliment. People say the Big 12 is soft and I think it is disrespectful,” senior defensive back PJ Locke III said. “We will keep that in the back of our mind and bring it to the game (today).”

Added junior defensive back Brandon Jones, “It is a good thing, especially coming from one of the best teams in the nation, in my opinion. We really pride ourselves in being a physical team, not only from a defensive back standpoint, but as a team as a whole. That is one of our big things, is to be the most physical team out there every Saturday and play a game. It is a good compliment from them, and we know what we bring to the table every game.”

The defense has prepared for a different tempo and different style of game coming today on New Year’s Day. Not because Georgia is from the SEC, or stood toe-to-toe with Alabama, but because the Bulldogs huddle-up after nearly every play, slow the game down, and try to grind and wear down the opposition.

"It is what it is. I don't think it's that big of a deal for me. I don't think it's a big deal for the defense,” Omenihu said. It obviously lengthens the game but it is what it is and we'll take our time."

With this being the final game of the season and the finale for several Longhorn seniors, the time to show the nation that Texas is, indeed, back, and ready to hang with the big boys this year and beyond into the future, is now.

“Being a senior I could not go out a better way,” Locke said. “This is a great challenge for our team and will really give us a chance to see where our program stands right now.”

Wheeler was in full agreement with his teammate.

"I want people to say we changed Texas and brought it back to how it used to be, so Texas can keep moving forward until they are considered a top team again,” Wheeler said.

Kickoff for the Allstate Sugar Bowl is set for 7:45 p.m. today on ESPN.