Dallas Colleges: Alamo Bowl-2012
A tumultuous season on and off the field was over with an ending that, while not to script, featured enough feel-good moments that it was clear, at least on this day, nobody would burst their bubble.
And now, following a 31-27 win over No. 13 Oregon State (9-4) in front of 65,277 fans at the Valero Alamo Bowl Saturday, the wonder is if that bubble in on the rise.
That's long been the claim of Texas coach Mack Brown. This youth-laden team was one built for the future, Brown continually contended in the face of increasing criticism. The future started 15 minutes early for Texas. The No. 23 Longhorns (9-4), an underdog who played the part to Tony-worthy accolades for three quarters, showed fourth-quarter mettle and moxie rarely seen from a program whose heartbeat had been faint for several seasons.
Finally there was a team coming together. For three years and three quarters there were questions if this collection of players, coaches and the person at the top was right for Texas football. One win won't end those questions. It will quiet them if only because of the way that win came about. Texas had not won after trailing by 10 points all season. The Longhorns trailed 27-17 after David Ash threw an ill-timed interception in the third. That's when Texas folds, Bevo shrugs and the Longhorns start talking about their next recruiting class.
Not this time. The words they had thrown around -- commitment, earn the right, swagger, never quit -- became tangible feelings and were, for the first time, manifested on the field in that fourth quarter.
Read the complete story here.
- Air it out: Coach Mike Riley picked Cody Vaz to be his starting quarterback for a reason -- because he felt Vaz could run the offense with more efficiency than Sean Mannion. And Oregon State’s offense is at its best when Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks are touching the ball, a lot. The running game has progressed to the point where there is just enough concern for defenses to sneak a safety down toward the line of scrimmage (and don’t think Storm Woods isn’t aching to show the Longhorns what they missed when they passed on him in recruiting). That should allow one of the most dynamic wide receiver duos in the country to do what it does best. If Wheaton and Cooks combine for 13-15 catches and 200 yards receiving, there’s a good chance Oregon State will end up on the winning side.
- Pressure: David Ash hasn’t been the most efficient quarterback this year. In fact, he’s been all over the board. Some games he has completed 80-plus percent of his throws. In others, he’s below 50 percent. And the Beavers want to make him as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket. With nine sacks and 17 tackles for loss, Scott Crichton was one of the best in the Pac-12 at creating havoc in the backfield. A good day for Crichton probably means a bad day for Ash. And while the Texas quarterback has done a better job taking care of the ball (one less interception than last year despite more passing attempts), he’s made most of his errors in crucial situations. Making life difficult for Ash will be the No. 1 priority on the list for Beavers defensive coordinator Mark Banker.
- Turnovers: It’s what most games usually come down to. With 30 takeaways this year, the Beavers are one of the best in the country at getting the ball back for the offense. They have 19 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries. Texas isn’t nearly as prolific (18 total turnovers forced) but it is still on the plus side of the turnover margin. This one doesn’t figure to be as high-scoring as the other two Pac-12 versus Big 12 matchups (well, at least Baylor got the memo), so possessions and taking advantage of those possessions will be vital. Even though Oregon State won the turnover battle against, say, Stanford, it was OSU’s one turnover in that game that changed the landscape of the season (for a few teams). Giveaways kill momentum and they lose games.
1. Keep David Ash calm: The sophomore quarterback is going to feel a ton of pressure to perform given that this is basically an audition for next season’s starting position. Ash did not start the regular-season finale due to injury. So the situation is much like last season when he did not start against Baylor but did in the bowl against Cal. However, the stakes have been raised because a Texas loss means the Longhorns would finish with the exact same record from 2011, and that is not the progress many expected from this team.
Ash also is facing a very good pass defense that has proved it can bring pressure from defensive end Scott Crichton, and defensive back Jordan Poyer is second nationally with seven interceptions.
2. Plug the gaps: Oregon State wants to pass before it runs. But given that the Texas defense is so porous against the run game -- 199 rushing yards allowed per game -- the Beavers are likely to get Storm Woods involved early and often. Texas has simplified the defense to help out the linebackers but it needs to have a strong game from Peter Jinkens and Steve Edmond to have any chance of keeping the Beavers in check. Jinkens has proven to be a playmaker who has sideline-to-sideline speed. If his emotions do not get the better of him, he can be a factor. Edmond has trouble reading what is happening but lately has started to come around and is no longer a step slow.
3. Start fast, finish strong: It seems like a pretty simple concept but Texas does have a tendency to start slowly in big games -- Oklahoma comes to mind. Oregon State is the classic Aesop tortoise. The Beavers are plodders and usually are able to catch their opponents in the end. Oregon State won its first three games by less than a score and lost two of its games by a combined six points. So the Beavers are accustomed to playing in close games. And given that they have come back against teams such as Arizona and Arizona State, they are not apt to fold if Texas comes out with a quick onslaught of points. To counteract that, Texas must continue to pressure the Beavers on offense and extend its drives. There might be some hiccups with new playcaller Major Applewhite but Texas will have to overcome those to keep the Beavers at bay.
VALERO ALAMO BOWL
Texas (8-4) vs. Oregon State (9-3)
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
When: Saturday, Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET
About Texas: No team in the Big 12 has been on a wilder ride this season than Texas. The Longhorns looked like they were back with a 4-0 start and hanging around the top 10. Then came a two-game losing streak capped by a beatdown in Red River. Everybody gave up on the Horns and more than a few fans were ready to be rid of Mack Brown. Then Texas won four consecutive games and revived its BCS and Big 12 title hopes. Then it got solidly beaten on its home field and nobody believed in Texas anymore. This wasn't the 10-win season or BCS bid Texas hoped for when the year began, but this team is built to win big next year if it gets more consistent play at quarterback. Can it start with a bowl win against a top-15 opponent?
About Oregon State: The Beavers feel Texas' pain when it comes to quarterback issues. A midseason injury sent Sean Mannion to the bench, but even when he returned, a four-interception outing against Washington had OSU turning back to Cody Vaz. The loss to Stanford, though, opened the door back for Mannion, who took back the starting spot after an ankle injury to Vaz and kept the job through a rout of Nicholls State in the season finale, rescheduled from earlier in the season. OSU began the season 6-0 and ascended to No. 7 in the polls, but the Beavers were brought back to earth with three losses in their final six games.
Longhorns to watch: Texas' defense was disappointing, but showed promise at times late in the season. When you're not watching the theatrics between Case McCoy and David Ash, keep an eye on defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro can lower the boom on anybody, and Okafor's remained productive, despite losing his partner in crime, Jackson Jeffcoat, for the season with a pectoral injury. Johnathan Gray led the Longhorns in rushing this season, but fellow backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron should both be back healthy.
Beavers to watch: No, Jacquizz Rodgers is not still there. The spectacularly named running back Storm Woods is, though. The freshman rushed for more than 800 yards, but the biggest threat Texas will have to stop is receiver Markus Wheaton. Despite the revolving door of injuries and benchings at QB, he racked up 1,207 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Only USC's Marqise Lee, the Biletnikoff Award winner, had more of either this season in the Pac-12.
Did you know? Oregon State's only played a Big 12 team in a bowl game once, but it was a memorable one for the Corvallis Woodchuckers, and one the Big 12 would like to forget. Missouri held a two-touchdown lead with just over six minutes to go, but Oregon State rallied and appeared to tie the game in the final seconds. However, coach Mike Riley went for two and the win, and the Beavers got it to take home the Sun Bowl trophy back in 2006.
Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m. ET, San Antonio (ESPN)
Texas take from LonghornNation's Carter Strickland: The Longhorns stumbled down the stretch, losing their last two games to finish the regular season third in the Big 12.
While most projections called for Texas to finish right around third in the conference -- second was a possibility but thought to be a distant one -- the 8-4 overall record is looked at as a disappointment because of who the Longhorns lost to and how they lost.
Oklahoma and Kansas State, the top two teams in the Big 12, beat Texas by a combined 60 points, but the fact that the Longhorns most likely were going to lose to both of those teams had been accepted prior to the start of the season.
The other two losses -- to TCU and West Virginia -- were seen more as swing games. Texas lost those two by a combined 10 points. That both losses were at home didn't exactly thrill the fan base.
Now Texas is at a loss as to which quarterback, David Ash or Case McCoy, should lead the team. Ash started the first 11 games but was pulled twice due to inconsistent play and turnovers. McCoy started the final game against Kansas State and threw for 314 yards with 17 straight completions at one point. But McCoy had two costly interceptions as well.
On defense, Texas was one of the most porous in both the conference and the nation. But a month of bowl practice may help heal defensive end Alex Okafor and build confidence in replacement linebackers Tevin Jackson and Peter Jinkens.
Texas needs one more win to finish one game better than last season's record of 8-5. If the Longhorns can do that it might lend slightly more credibility to Texas coach Mack Brown's continued stump speeches about the Longhorns having improved from last year.
Oregon State take by Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell: Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has a decision to make. OSU's regular-season finale against Nicholls State was as much an open quarterback tryout between Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz as it was a quest for a ninth win. Both have had highs and lows throughout the season, so it will be interesting to see which way Riley goes in the postseason as the Beavers look for their first Bowl win since a 3-0 victory against Pittsburgh in the 2008 Sun Bowl.
Both quarterbacks looked outstanding against Nicholls State -- granted, it was against a one-win FCS team. Yet both made their cases with efficient performances.
But the true stars of Oregon's State's team this year have been seniors Markus Wheaton (receiver) and Jordan Poyer (cornerback). They were catalysts for one of the best turnarounds in college football in 2012. Last season, the Beavers were 3-9 and many questioned whether Riley's job was secure.
Wheaton is one of the most dangerous, yet underappreciated receivers in the country. He's not only made his quarterback better with his sure hands and blistering speed, but his presence also helped give rise to up-and-coming receiver Brandin Cooks. The duo went for more than 1,000 receiving yards each, so they'll test the Texas secondary.
Across the field, Poyer, an All-American, comes in with a Pac-12 best seven interceptions. He's supported by an outstanding defense that was second only to Stanford in points allowed per game. Scott Crichton (nine sacks, 15 tackles for a loss) headlines a front seven that was one of the tougher groups in the conference this season.
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