For three quarters of the Alamo Bowl, the Texas Longhorns looked tired and disinterested, just another disappointing night in a disappointing season. But losing 27-17 midway through the fourth quarter, the Longhorn senior leadership flexed its muscle, motivated the youngsters and came up with the plays required to beat the No. 13 Oregon State Beavers and win the Alamo Bowl 31-27.
Major Applewhite, calling his first game as offensive coordinator, didn't fool with trick plays or finesse offense. Applewhite kept the Oregon State defense on their heels when the game was on the line and David Ash found the yards he needed, whether throwing the ball to senior Marquis Goodwin, junior Jaxon Shipley or simply running it into the end zone himself.
David Ash did his best Jekyll and Hyde impersonation again, missing on seemingly simple passes, but time and again when the Longhorns needed a play, Ash found a way and he was brilliant in the fourth quarter going 9 of 11 passing and scrambling for a game changing first down. Ash ended the night 21 of 33 for 241 yards, with two touchdowns passing and one rushing.
The real hero of this game might be defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. The much maligned Texas defense kept the Longhorns in the game. Well, quite honestly, it was Alex Okafor who turned into a one-man sack machine, chasing Oregon State's quarterback all over the Beaver backfield and coming up with 4.5 sacks. In fact, the Texas defense spent most of the night in the Oregon State backfield, finishing with 10 sacks, backing up the Beaver offense 81 yards. Add in two interceptions and a fumble recovery and you have the recipe for a last-minute win.
That's the way it ended; it started ugly, very ugly. The Longhorns didn't manage a first down until well into the second quarter. They also had a field goal blocked and appeared disoriented throughout the first half. Credit the Texas defense with keeping the Horns in the game, intercepting a pass and forcing fumble in the first half.
As a result, Texas never trailed by more than 10 points and a different team came out of the locker room for the second half. When Texas needed a play, it was the playmakers who delivered. Johnathan Gray managed only 18 yards rushing, but he caught a terrific pass from Ash, who escaped a near certain sack, and then ran 15 yards for a fourth quarter touchdown keeping Texas within a field goal. And then it was senior wide-out Marquis Goodwin, who destroyed the Beaver secondary all night, catching a game-wining 36 yard touchdown with just 2:30 left.
The win certainly feels good for Longhorn fans, but it carries no weight as a harbinger of things to come. The stars of this game will not be back next season. It was Longhorn seniors who came up up big to win the game, but Marquis Goodwin and Alex Okafor will likely be playing in the NFL next year.
As for next year's team, there is still work to be done. Ash has yet to prove he is the quarterback of the future and Applewhite has a lot of work to do on the offensive game planning. Against Oregon State, running back Johnathan Gray was handed the ball only seven times. Both the quarterback and the rushing commitment will need to be addressed if Texas is to enter the college football elite.
Still, the Texas Longhorns managed a come from behind win against the No. 13 ranked BCS football team. A bowl win, especially against a good team, is never a bad thing and the momentum can easily carry over into the next year.
The 2012 Longhorn season will not be fondly remembered as Auld Lang Syne, but it ended well, leaving Longhorn nation with hope for what is to come.