Keys to the Game: Alamo Bowl

Matt Warden

Third place in the Big 12 isn’t the outcome Texas had hoped for, but it’s what it got entering the Alamo Bowl contest with Oregon State.

The Longhorns have shown a lot of good things this season despite losing big games against their rivals and should look to maximize their strengths to beat Oregon State. The game plan will be simple.

Run effectively:
When Texas runs the football well it usually wins. Likewise, when it doesn’t run the ball well, it doesn’t win. This has been the story all season long for the Longhorns and the Alamo Bowl should be no different. Texas’ running game is the source for much of its success this season, with multiple contributors to carry the load every game out. Oregon State ranks No. 22 in total defense but has shown a weakness against teams who can run the ball effectively. In their 48-24 loss to rival Oregon, the Beavers gave up an astounding 430 yards and six touchdowns. While it might not take this kind of production to get the Longhorns a victory, they should look to put the ball in Johnathan Gray’s hands to pick up yards in the open field, feed Malcolm Brown between the tackles and pound the ball into the end zone with Joe Bergeron. Running the ball effectively has to be the biggest key in the Longhorns’ game plan against the Beavers.

Pressure the quarterback:
Although Oregon State ranks No. 15 in passing yards, its starting signal-caller has 13 interceptions on the season. Sean Mannion has proven the ability to make big throws as the Beavers rank highly in passing, but his four interceptions against Oregon reveal a flaw the Longhorns must look to exploit. The defensive line of Texas needs to rush Mannion relentlessly to force him into more errors. While the Longhorns should be cautious of his ability to throw the ball effectively at times, constant pressure will be the answer to shutting down his effect on the game. Oregon State has receivers who can make up for a few bad throws on Mannion’s part, but minimizing the time and window he has to throw will help the Longhorns put the Beavers away.

Don’t rush throws:
The quarterback situation at Texas has been a tumultuous one in the final weeks of the season, which does it no favors entering the Alamo Bowl. The Beavers, who have 19 interceptions this season, tied for No. 6 in the nation, are dangerous. Whether it’s David Ash or Case McCoy that is behind center come Dec. 29, the Longhorns must be wary of the Beavers’ ability to capitalize on mistakes. Texas should take its time in the pocket and set up the passing game with short passes and runs. If the Longhorns come out throwing deep passes to start the game, the Beavers will eat them alive. If Texas can find a way to open up the passing game by being patient and not trying to force the issue, it should have a good shot at marginalizing the stout defense of Oregon State.