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Alamo Bowl slips away from Oregon State

SAN ANTONIO — On Oregon State’s final offensive play Saturday night, quarterback Cody Vaz found himself flat on his back of the Alamodome turf, the victim of another Texas sack.

It was a fitting end to one of the most ill-fated performances in school history.

The Longhorns sacked Vaz 10 times for 81 yards in losses en route to a come-from-behind 31-27 Alamo Bowl victory that will stick in the craw of the Beavers for many a moon.

“It’s a game we feel we let slip away,” said Vaz, who will have nightmares of himself absorbing body blows from Texas defensive end Alex Okafor. “Taking nothing away from Texas — (the Longhorns) are a really good team — but we let this one slip out of our hands.”

It was a devastating loss for the 15th-ranked Beavers (9-4), who led most of the way and controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the early going.

“We had it, man,” OSU offensive guard Josh Andrews said dejectedly as he strode to the locker room. “We had it. We just let it slip away.”

It was an uplifting victory for the unranked Longhorns (9-4), who seized control in the second half after sputtering early.

“We challenged all of our players to make the seniors leave happy,” Texas coach Mack Brown said, “and it’s a happy dressing room tonight.”

Oregon State dominated the first half and could have — should have — had a bigger lead than its 20-10 advantage at intermission.

The Beavers were still in front 27-17 and had the ball in Texas territory early in the fourth quarter after the Longhorns failed on a fake punt attempt, with OSU’s Ryan Murphy batting down a pass from Alex King. An Oregon State touchdown there and Texas would have been buried.

“That was a critical time in the game,” OSU coach Mike Riley said. “We needed to get something out of that, and we didn’t.”

The Beavers went three-and-out, and after a Keith Kostol punt, the Longhorns marched 83 yards in nine plays for a touchdown to draw with 27-24 with 8:18 remaining.

“We had all the momentum at that point,” said Texas quarterback David Ash, whose 15-yard TD pass to running back Johnathan Gray brought the Longhorns to within three.

By that time, Oregon State’s offense had gone from bad to worse.

On first down from the OSU 22, Vaz was sacked for the seventh time in the game. On second-and-17, Vaz connected with Terron Ward on a screen pass for 19 yards and a first down, but Vaz got sacked again on a third-down play. Kostol’s short punt was returned by Quandre Diggs 12 yards to the OSU 48, and the Longhorns still had 4:35 on the clock.

Five plays later, on first-and-10 at the Beaver 36, Ash went deep to Marquise Goodwin for 36 yards and the go-ahead score with 2:24 remaining. The Beavers mustered nothing offensively on their final possession, and the Longhorn faithful were soon celebrating victory.

The way the game started, the final result seemed unfathomable. Oregon State’s balanced offensive attack produced 117 yards passing and 111 yards rushing in the first half. To that point, OSU held a huge advantage in first downs (16-4) and total offense (228-123).

Texas didn’t get its initial first down until early in the second quarter — and that came when the Beavers were flagged for being offside on a Longhorn punt. Meanwhile, OSU freshman Storm Woods — a Plugerville, Texas, native — was on his way to a big night with 98 yards and a TD on 15 carries.

Texas made the necessary adjustments and turned the tide in the second half, winning the battle in first downs (16-5) and total offense (235-69) after intermission.

“The only time we got in trouble defensively was before the half when (the Beavers) were running the ball,” Brown said. “When we got them in position where they needed to throw, the defense completely took over the game at the end.

“I don’t think our defense has played better in a game this year. They were relentless and just kept coming, and that’s a great offensive team. Mike is one of the best play-callers and offensive coaches in the country.”

Oregon State wound up with minus-8 yards on the ground over the final two quarters — thanks primarily to Vaz’s massive sack numbers.

“The difference in the second half was we didn’t have the running game we had early,” Riley said. “Some of it was (the Longhorn defense) did a better job. Some of it was we just didn’t make the plays.”

When the Oregon State offense got one-dimensional, Texas’ front seven gathered steam.

Okafor was the biggest thorn in Vaz’s side. The 6-4 1/2, 265-pound senior — a prep teammate of Woods — had a career-high 4 1/2 sacks and also forced a fumble.

“As a pass rusher, you work one move on a (blocker),” Okafor said. “If you can’t account for that move, it’s difficult for a blocker. With the job our secondary did, we had plenty of time to rush passer and make plays. That let us kind of hang loose and do what we do.”

As the game wore on, OSU’s offensive front couldn’t handle Texas’ pressure.

“Our pass protection just fell apart at the end, when we needed it most,” Andrews said. “It’s just so frustrating. I don’t know what happened.”

Vaz completed 15 of 28 passes for 194 yards. He was intercepted twice and fumbled once.

“Not very good,” said the 6-foot, 200-pound junior when asked how he felt he played. “I left some plays out there. It sucks, really. I don’t feel good about the way I played tonight.”

Vaz was running for his life much of the game, though he wasn’t successful at all in evading the Texas pass rush.

“Those guys are good players, and they gave us some trouble,” Riley said. “Cody had to hang in there very tough. He made some plays, and other plays didn’t have time to develop. if he’d had a little more time ... things just got tough.”

Vaz turned an ankle in the second quarter and was replaced by Sean Mannion after a 20-yard Jordan Poyer punt return gave Oregon State the ball at the Texas 47. It took the Beavers five plays to get the ball into the end zone — all on the ground, with Terron Ward covering the final nine yards to paydirt.

Vaz returned for OSU’s next offensive series and played the rest of the way. Did Riley ever give thought to reinserting Mannion?

“Sometimes when there’s a feeding frenzy (with the pass rush), it’s not a great deal for anybody quarterbacking,” the OSU coach said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t keep our balance going better. When we had to drop back and throw, it was all pretty hard tonight.”

Did the ankle affect Vaz’s mobility the rest of the way?

“It was fine,” he said. “I was 100 percent. No excuses.”

Two of Vaz’s turnovers came in the game’s first 10 minutes, both in Texas territory. The Longhorns managed only three points out of it, though, and it appeared it might be the Beavers’ night.

Oregon State, in fact, never punted in the first half. The Beavers scored on four of their seven possessions, and it might have been five if not for a botched opportunity at the end of the half.

After a Texas punt to start the game, Oregon State took possession at its 30-yard line. On second-and-2 from the 38, Vaz’s dump pass was intercepted by Texas’ Peter Jinkens and returned to the OSU 30. The Beaver defense held, though, and Nick Jordan’s 46-yard field goal attempt was blocked and picked up by OSU’s Feti Unga, who handed the ball to teammate Murphy. Murphy’s long return gave the Beavers the ball at the Texas 36.

Oregon State moved to the Texas 12 where, on third-and-seven, Vaz threw the ball too hard and through the hands of Brandin Cooks, who might have scored with the reception. Trevor Romaine’s 29-yard field goal gave the Beavers a 3-0 lead with 9:12 left in the first quarter.

After another Texas punt, Oregon State took the ball at its 40. On first down, Vaz’s arm was hit as he went back to throw and the fumble was recovered by the Longhorns’ Cedric Reed at the OSU 26. The Beaver defense held again, but this time Jordan converted a 40-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3 with 6:46 to go in the quarter.

The Beavers regained the lead on a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Woods accounted for 51 of the yards on six carries, including a 12-yard run to paydirt on a draw play to push Oregon State on top 10-3 with 1:33 remaining in the period.

Texas evened the count when Goodwin raced 64 yards on a reverse play for a TD to make it 10-10 — “when he hits that crease,” Brown said, “that 10.3 speed happens.” But the Beavers took control, regaining the lead on a 37-yard Romaine field goal, then making it 20-10 on Ward’s TD scamper.

Late in the half, the Beavers got on the move again. On third-and-15 from the Texas 45, Vaz found Brandin Cooks over the middle for a pass near the first-down marker with about 10 seconds to go. The Beavers had a timeout left, but didn’t use it, and as the clock ticked down to zero, Vaz spiked the ball to end the half. Had Riley called time, Romaine could have attempted a field goal from 48 or 49 yards.

“The word came down (from the press box) that we got a first down on the play,” Riley said. “I was amazed (that time expired). I thought we could get another play. I didn’t want to waste the timeout.

“We were going to spike it and take a shot, see how much time we had to do that and kick the field goal from there. All I wanted (the officials) to do was at least measure it. (The referee) told me much later that they had decided it wasn’t that close. That was too bad. We at least had a shot at a field goal.”

Ash finished 21-for-33 passing for 241 yards and two TDs. He threw for 188 yards and both scores in the second half and was 7 for 7 on the Longhorns’ final two scoring drives.

“The guys were believing,” he said. “That’s what happens when you start just playing ball and aren’t thinking about anything else but reacting and having fun.”

It wasn’t much fun for the Beavers after halftime.

“In the second half, we never got back to running the ball like we did in the first half,” Riley said. “We took some bad plays on first down. Offensively, we never really got anything going. and that allowed (the Longhorns) too many chances.

“We had a hard time blocking up front when we dropped back to pass. We got ourselves in too many passing situations in the second half, and they gave us fits.”

The Beavers will never be convinced they didn’t give this one away.

“We played one half of football,” Murphy said. “We had this game; we had this team. Texas just came out better than us the second half.”

NOTES — Texas has won nine of its last 11 bowl games. Riley has lost his last two after starting his career 8-0, including three wins as offensive coordinator at Southern Cal. ... Woods finished with 940 yards and 13 TDs rushing. ... Oregon State’s prize receivers, Markus Wheaton and Cooks, combined for six catches and 68 yards. “Two tremendous receivers, and it scared us — their ability to catch the ball in space and score,” Brown said. “They didn’t get a deep ball, which is amazing. Part of that was Alex’s fault. They didn’t have time to get (a long pass) off. The pass rush was unbelievable.” ... Wheaton wound up with 91 receptions, tying James Rodgers for the OSU single-season record. Wheaton tops the OSU career list with 227 catches. ... Other than Goodwin’s 64-yard run, Texas had 59 yards total offense in the first half. “We were going to try to establish the run early, and we couldn’t block them,” Brown said. “That’s a great defensive front.” ... OSU had minus-4 yards total offense in the fourth quarter. ... The Beavers set a school single-season record with 54 touchdowns. ... Romaine made his last 12 field goals of the season and finished 16 for 18. The sophomore has 31 in two seasons, ranking him seventh on the school’s career list.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Texas 3 7 7 14 — 31

Oregon State 10 10 7 0 — 27

FIRST QUARTER

OSU — Trevor Romaine 29 FG 9:12

TEX — Nick Jordan 40 FG 6:46

OSU — Storm Woods 12 run (Romaine kick) 1:33

SECOND QUARTER

TEX — Marquise Goodwin 64 run (Jordan kick) 14:40

OSU — Romaine 37 FG 9:20

OSU — Terron Ward 9 run (Romaine kick) 3:46

THIRD QUARTER

TEX — David Ash 11 run (Jordan kick) 5:17

OSU — Woods 2 run (Romaine kick) :09

FOURTH QUARTER

TEX — Johnathan Gray 15 pass from Ash (Jordan kick) 8:18

TEX — Goodwin 36 pass from Ash (Jordan kick) 2:24

ATT. — 65,277

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