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Can Texas' defense slow down Oregon State's passing attack?
For the sixth time in the 20-year history of the bowl, and for the first time since 2008, the Alamo Bowl will feature two ranked teams. Mike Riley led Oregon State back to the postseason after a two-year bowl hiatus. This will be the 14th bowl game in Beavers history and Riley is responsible for seven of them. He is a sterling 5-1 in postseason play. Oregon State lost to BYU in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl the last time it earned a bowl berth.
Mack Brown is 9-4 in bowl games at Texas, including a victory over Cal in the Holiday Bowl last season. The 2012 Alamo Bowl will be the third meeting between the Beavers and Longhorns with Texas holding a 2-0 series record. Both meeting took place in Austin and during the 80s — and UT won by a combined 96-16.
The No. 13 Beavers and No. 23 Longhorns will do their best to build on the record-setting 2011 Alamo Bowl. Baylor topped Washington 67-56 in the record-setting performance last postseason, in which the two teams combined for a bowl game record 1,397 yards.
Alamo Bowl: Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4)
Date and Time: Sat., Dec. 29, 6:45 p.m.
Location: Alamodome (San Antonio, Texas)
When Oregon State has the ball
Riley had a tough call to make midway through the season when starting quarterback Sean Mannion injured his knee and missed a couple of games. Cody Vaz filled in admirably but some believe that Mannion was rushed back into the starting lineup. He struggled against Washington and Oregon (8 total INTs) but rounded into form by finishing his regular season with a 20-of-23, 231-yard, 2-TD performance against Nicholls State. Riley picked Vaz to start the bowl game, but Mannion could see time if Vaz struggles.
Look for Vaz to utilize a pair of electric pass catchers in Markus Wheaton (88 rec., 1,207 yards, 11 TD) and Brandin Cooks (64 rec., 1,120 yards, 5 TD). Texas has elite athletes in the secondary but its pass defense was exposed at times this year. Texas allowed over 300 yards passing four times in conference play this year.
One way Brown can help his secondary is to get pressure on Vaz with his front seven. End Alex Okafor, who led the team in sacks (8.0) and tackles for a loss (11.5), and rising superstar linebacker Steve Edmond will be asked to disrupt the talented but youthful Oregon State offensive line. The Beavers counter with running back Storm Woods, who scored five times and caught 12 passes in the final three games of the season.
An intriguing storyline to watch when OSU is on offense? Okafor and Woods were teammates at Austin area Pflugerville High School.
When Texas has the ball
David Ash will be the starter under center for Texas, and his play will go a long way to determining the Horns fate in this game. The Horns were 6-1 this year when he didn’t throw an interception and were 2-2 when he did. He didn’t play in the season finale against Kansas State due to injury. Case McCoy (314 yards, 2 TD against KSU) is suspended for the Alamo Bowl, so Ash will has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to produce on Saturday night.
The names to watch for Texas on offense, however, will be a pair of electric freshman. Running back Johnathan Gray led the team in rushing after finishing with 94.8 yards from scrimmage over his last five games. All-purpose dynamo Daje Johnson will get a few carries as a runner but will also be a pass-catching threat. He set career highs for catches and yards (5 rec., 85 yards) in the season finale and can score any time he touches the ball. Malcolm Brown (316 yards, 4 TD) and Joe Bergeron (565 yards, 16 TD) should also expect to see plenty of work as well.
The Beavers defense was one of the nation's most improved units from 2011. Oregon State finished last in the Pac-12 in rushing defense and turnover margin and allowed over 30 points per game a year ago. This fall, Riley’s defense was 28th nationally in stopping the run, was second in the league in turnover margin and held opponents to less than 20 points per game. A big part of the Beavers 19 interceptions, which ranked sixth nationally, was the play of All-America cornerback Jordan Poyer (7 INT). He and All-Pac-12 lineman Scott Crichton (17.0 TFL, 9.0 sacks) form one of the best defensive duos in the nation.
One team has underachieved with a roster chalked full of five-star talent. The other has overachieved with excellent coaching and a fundamentally sound gameplan. The crowd should be tilted heavily towards the home-state Longhorns, but the Beavers are the much more disciplined team. They will take advantage of any mistakes Ash makes. It won’t be as high-scoring as last year’s Alamo Bowl, but it could be just as competitive.
Prediction: Oregon State 27, Texas 24
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