HOUSTON — Ten minutes into Wednesday’s Texas Bowl, Missouri’s defense dug its heels in the remarkably tidy plastic turf at NRG Stadium and held.

A strong defensive showing all but assured victory during Missouri’s six-game winning streak to close the regular season, a stretch in which the Tigers’ offense averaged 51.3 points per game.

The offense fell well short of that mark against Texas in a 33-16 loss.

Missouri (7-6) outgained the Longhorns 390 yards to 280 and racked up 17 first downs. But it was just 3 of 14 on third downs, got killed in the turnover battle and constantly faced a long field thanks to a remarkable performance by Texas punter and game MVP Michael Dickson.

“Those 18 seniors, I wanted nothing more than to send them out with a win,” coach Barry Odom said. “I couldn’t get it done. We’ll learn from the good and the bad this year.”

Drew Lock completed 18 of 34 passes for 269 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his bowl debut. With the exception of a 79-yard touchdown pass to Johnathon Johnson on Missouri’s first play of the second half, a depleted Longhorns defense bottled up the Tigers’ big-play offense.

Missouri’s defense largely did its job, even though its first appearance Wednesday was a disaster. On the game’s first drive, it committed three penalties for 35 yards (all resulting in first downs) and simply neglected to cover running back Daniel Young on a play-action pass that went for a 22-yard touchdown.

It held Texas (7-6) to just 3.2 yards per play for the rest of the game and recorded 11 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end Jordan Harold had a career-high 3½ tackles for loss, fellow senior end Marcell Frazier had two and linebacker Brandon Lee had 1½.

“I think the D-line played amazing,” Frazier said. … “Obviously, we wanted to win, but when we look back on our effort this game, that’s gonna show up on film.”

Meanwhile, in his play calling debut, interim offensive coordinator Joe Jon Finley stuck to a strongly conservative game plan.

The offense started with a dud but struggled to redeem itself. Kevin Pendleton committed a false start on the first play from scrimmage, and Missouri gained just 2 yards on its initial drive, forcing a punt from the Tigers’ 15-yard line.

Even with a 53-47 run-pass ratio entering the game, Missouri’s 23 rushes against 14 passes in the first half raised eyebrows. The Tigers also deferred to start the game after winning the toss and failed to use any of its first-half timeouts — even though they forced a Texas punt with a little over a minute to go in the half.

“Getting the run started was going to open up shots for us,” wide receiver J’Mon Moore said. “That was the plan.”

The run emphasis didn’t pay off. Missouri averaged 4 yards per carry in the first two quarters for 92 yards. Ish Witter fumbled for just the fourth time in his career. Anthony Wheeler picked it up and ran 38 yards the opposite way for a touchdown, which gave Texas a 21-7 lead it took into the intermission.

Albert Okwuegbunam fumbled on the next possession for another Texas recovery. Missouri also fumbled on its final drive of the game, resulting in a devastating minus-four turnover margin and continuing a string of rotten fumble luck Missouri has weathered all season. The Tigers fumbled 10 times this year. All of them were defensive recoveries.

It’s easy to imagine that Missouri’s halftime conversation included a discussion on using the deep ball that worked for much of the second half of the season. Lock’s perfectly placed bomb to Johnson on the first play of the third quarter was the Tigers’ 23rd play of at least 50 yards this season, most in the nation.

“I thought that was going to be a turning point,” starting right tackle Paul Adams said. “I felt it. The whole team felt it. I think we shot ourselves in the foot with the amount of turnovers and penalties we had.”

Missouri’s defense took control. It forced eight consecutive Texas punts from the first quarter to the third quarter, but Dickson was robotic with his punting efficiency.

The Sydney, Australia, native proved Wednesday he was a worthy recipient of this year’s Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top punter. He booted 11 punts for an average of 41.1 yards and pinned Missouri at or inside its own 10-yard line eight times. Two of his punts went for at least 50 yards, and 10 of his 11 kicks ended up inside the Tigers’ 20-yard line. Missouri’s average starting field position was its own 15-yard line.

He became the first punter to be named a bowl game MVP since Florida State’s Graham Gano at the Champs Sports Bowl in 2008.

Odom was asked if he’d seen a punter have that much of an impact in a game before.

“Nope,” he responded. “I guess that’s why he won that award. He’s pretty good, and they played pretty well off of him.”

Dickson’s dominance kept Missouri at bay even as its defense kept the Longhorns in a logjam. Down 21-13 midway through the third quarter, the Tigers put together a 16-play, 87-yard drive that lasted 5 minutes, 33 seconds — and only netted a field goal.

Missouri further hamstrung its comeback attempt with a shotgun snap that Lock smacked out of the back of the end zone for a safety with 1:10 left in the third quarter.

Then, the string of Texas punts came to an end early in the fourth quarter when cornerback DeMarkus Acy was flagged for what appeared to be a soft roughing-the-passer penalty on third down. The Longhorns cashed in on a 41-yard field goal to make it 26-16.

Facing a two-possession deficit, the Tigers stalled at midfield on their next drive and punted with 10:45 remaining. Texas whittled 7 minutes off the clock, and when Missouri got the ball back on its own 4-yard line with 3:20 left, Lock’s first pass was picked off.

Given its propensity to include local teams, the Texas Bowl has been one of the most well-attended bowl games over the last three years. Missouri fans were overrun by Texas fans at NRG Stadium on Wednesday night, as the overwhelming majority of the generously-listed crowd of 67,820 were decked in orange.

Damarea Crockett, who participated in Missouri’s 14 bowl practices and dressed out for pregame warmups, did not end up playing Wednesday. He returned to the sideline at kickoff in street clothes. Emanuel Hall, who injured his hamstring in the regular-season finale, also participated in the Tigers’ bowl practices but played sparingly Wednesday and wasn’t targeted.