The second in a trilogy of marquee bowl encounters between the Pac-12 and the Big 12, the Valero Alamo Bowl gave the Oregon State Beavers a chance to avenge the slight inflicted on their conference in Baylor’s Holiday Bowl rout of UCLA. In this battle of two top-25 teams, Oregon State entered ten rankings slots higher than the Texas Longhorns, who had disappointed again in the regular season. Curiously, both teams employed a two-quarterback system as they received inconsistent production from the position. While Oregon State started initial backup Cody Vaz, Texas suspended their backup quarterback and relied on their initial starter, David Ash, with no real backups in case of injury.
Stifled on their first possession, Texas managed to pin Oregon State deep inside its own territory with a strong punt. Two plays later, an interception from Cody Vaz continued the Beavers’ struggles with quarterback turnovers this year and gave the Longhorns an inviting opportunity. When another three-and-out forced a long field goal attempt, a block by the Beavers prevented Texas from turning the turnover into points and set themselves up inside opposing territory. With a quick completion inside the red zone, Oregon State threatened a touchdown, but a series of Vaz overthrows forced them to settle for a short field goal. Through the first five possessions, the teams combined for one total first down, including none in three Texas possessions. Committing his second turnover of the quarter, Vaz let the ball slip from his hands inside his own 30. Although Texas still could not move the chains, they delivered the game-tying field goal from 40 yards. Finally finding room to run, Oregon State running back Storm Woods broke through the Texas defensive line to ignite the Beavers and added another carry for a first down inside Longhorns territory. A sack of Vaz by Reggie Wilson threatened to stall the drive before the quarterback regrouped to fire a third-and-long conversion over the middle. Fittingly, Woods finished off the 12-play, 75-yard drive that he catalyzed by dashing for the game’s first touchdown. Ash began to find a rhythm with short completions on their next possession, but he still could not move the chains.
Oregon State 10, Texas 3
But the Beavers moved the chains for him with an offsides penalty on fourth down, followed immediately by a Texas timeout to avoid a delay-of-game penalty. Their embarrassment vanished abruptly with a 64-yard touchdown run by Marquise Goodwin, which tied the game again and must have caused Oregon State coach Mike Riley to shake his head over the offsides penalty that kept the Longhorn drive alive. Perhaps causing him to shake his head again was the near-interception thrown by Vaz on the first play of Oregon State’s next possession. Unruffled by the brush with disaster, Vaz continued to find success over the middle of the Texas defense, and another senseless Longhorns penalty gave the Beavers further momentum. Storm Woods again managed to find holes on a long drive that culminated in another field goal when Vaz succumbed to a third-down sack. Suffering a similar fate on the next Longhorns possession, Ash lacked the time to throw with his offensive line struggling to protect him. When the Beavers returned the punt inside midfield, they earned an opportunity to establish their first two-score lead of the game.
With Vaz apparently injured on the previous play, Sean Mannion resumed the starting role that he had occupied when the regular season began. Mannion had led the FBS in interception over the past two seasons with 31, so handoffs to Woods early in the drive did not surprise. Nevertheless, they appeared to surprise the Texas defense, who let Woods rack up a pair of first downs by running between the tackles. Talented Beavers speedster Brandin Cooks then set up the first and-goal opportunity of the game for either team, at which point backup running back Terron Ward darted through a hole in the middle of the Longhorns defense for the score. Just when Texas appeared to build momentum on the following drive, running back Joe Bergeron collapsed around midfield with an injury that appeared to deflate his teammates. Two incompletions for Ash allowed Oregon State to take over with a chance to wrap up the first half by establishing a commanding lead. Amidst penalties, negative plays, and other forms of sloppiness from both sides, the half ended with the Beavers mistaking a fourth down for a first down and failing to call their last timeout as the clock ran out before they could attempt a field goal.
Oregon State 20, Texas 10
Also unable to score on the drive that started the second half, the Beavers did succeed in pinning the stagnant Longhorns offense inside its own 10. Capitalizing on the punt that inevitably followed, Oregon State regained the ball in reasonably strong field position until Vaz absorbed yet another sack. The quarterback’s disastrous evening continued with an interception inside midfield on the next play, although a holding penalty pushed them back inside their own territory. Finally finding some rhythm in the passing game, Ash led the Longhorns to their first and-goal opportunity as they attempted to punish the Beavers for their third turnover. The Texas quarterback then kept the ball himself for an 11-yard touchdown dash that closed the gap to three.
In a clear momentum shift, strong kick coverage followed by a sack signaled the resurgence of a Texas defense that had excelled only in patches today. Forcing a three-and-out, they handed their offense a chance to tie or take the lead in a game that Oregon State had threatened to dominate. But another momentum shift loomed when Ash threw an interception for the first Texas turnover. Both carrying and catching with aplomb, Woods again played a crucial role in bringing Oregon State within the shadow of the Texas goal line and hurtled into the corner of the end zone to restore the two-score advantage.
Oregon State 27, Texas 17
Starting a drive from inside their own 10 after a penalty on the kick, Texas continued to struggle with providing Ash the time needed to find open receivers. Negative plays on early downs stunted their progress, and a fake punt on fourth down failed to gain the necessary yards. Oregon State still could not capitalize on the strong field position, though, leaving Texas time to mount a comeback. Finding his range at an opportune time, Ash fired a string of crisp completions downfield as the Longhorns temporarily jettisoned the running game that had produced little so far. As momentum escalated for Texas, their quarterback dodged multiple defenders along the line of scrimmage to unleash a touchdown pass placed as well as one could imagine (better, in fact, considering his previous level of accuracy). The spontaneous improvisation of the play electrified the Texas sideline and the crowd while thrusting the pressure back onto Oregon State to preserve a slim lead in the territory of their opponent.
A sack on Oregon State’s next offensive play exacerbated the pressure, but they responded with powerful runs to keep the drive alive as the clock trickled down towards the five-minute mark. Another sack sealed the fate of Vaz and the Beavers for that possession, giving the Longhorns plenty of time to move down the field after the ensuing punt. They started inside midfield, needing about 30 yards to set up a game-tying field goal. Stuffed on a third-and-one play, they converted an essential fourth-and-one that set up another burst of brilliance from Ash on a long touchdown toss to Goodwin. Trailing since midway through the first quarter, Texas had seized its first lead of the Alamo Bowl. But its porous defense still needed to stop the Beavers, who had plenty of time to notch another score of their own.
Looking helpless under pressure, Vaz toppled for yet another sack on third down that set up a fourth-and-long play to the delight of the numerous Longhorns faithful. Another sack on fourth down sealed the fate of the Beavers, ultimately unable to deliver when it mattered most under the roof of the Alamodome despite earning plenty of chances for themselves to seal victory earlier.
Final score: Texas 31, Oregon State 27
Having led for most of the game, Oregon State swallowed the bitter pill of losing the most significant game that they had played in a long time. After they had started the first half of the season undefeated, they lost three of their last four games as the quarterback uncertainty undermined their offensive cohesion. Defensive star Alex Okafor received well-deserved player of the game honors for the Longhorns, who salvaged an unremarkable regular season with a notable victory over a team ranked 13th in the nation. Also impressive was the poise in the fourth quarter of David Ash, who may represent a better solution at quarterback than Texas fans had thought. From a larger perspective, the second straight victory of the Big 12 over the Pac-12 in a significant bowl game continued the trend set by Baylor’s Holiday Bowl victory over UCLA in establishing their status as the second-best conference after the SEC. Only a Fiesta Bowl victory for Oregon over Big-12 champion Kansas State now could provide some solace for demoralized fans of West Coast football.