The Oregon State Beavers will cap off a surprising 2012 with an appearance in the Valero Alamo Bowl to take on the Texas Longhorns at the Alamodome.
Not a whole lot was expected from an Oregon State squad that came into this year off a 3-9 2011 campaign. The Beavers first grabbed the country's attention with a 10-7 win over a nationally-ranked Wisconsin team in its season opener and then went on to win its next five games. Along the way the Beavers pushed themselves into the national rankings where they have remained throughout the season despite a 3-3 mark over the final six contests. Oregon State had gone three years without a bowl appearance before this season, a drought that quarterback Sean Mannion is glad to be rid of.
"It's awesome. It shows how hard we have worked in the offseason and everyone's concentration," Mannion said. "I don't think it is any surprise that when we work hard great things happen, and to be able to play in an outstanding bowl game this season is going to be an honor."
Oregon State finished the regular season with a 77-3 rout of Nicholls to earn its first nine-win season since 2008. The bowl bid is the 14th all-time for the Beavers. In those games Oregon Sate has earned an 8-6 record.
Texas has been a mainstay during bowl season under Mack Brown. With this invite the Longhorns will make an appearance in a bowl game for the 14th time in Brown's 15-year tenure. Still at 8-4 and out of the national rankings the season in Austin didn't live up to the high expectations that Brown always has . Brown's teams had won at least 10 games in nine straight seasons from 2001-2010, including a National Championship in 2005. Texas could have perhaps been up for an even more prestigious bowl but losses in its last two contests dashed any hopes of a 10-win season.
"The standards are higher than 8 [wins], and that's what the kids need to understand and our coaches do understand," Brown said. "And we are ready to take that next step and get it back to where it should be."
In total the Longhorns have made 50 previous bowl appearances. In those games Texas has accumulated a a 26-24 record, including a 9-4 mark under Brown.
This will be the third all-time meeting between these programs and the first since 1987. In that game the host Longhorns routed the Beavers 61-16 to earn their second win in the series.
Oregon State had to deal with adversity at the quarterback position this season as Mannion missed games with a knee injury. In his place Cody Vaz made a pair of starts. Mannion came back to reclaim his starting job though and even though he was slowed by injury, the numbers were solid. He has thrown for 2,446 yards, while completing 64.7 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns. Unfortunately Mannion was also picked off 13 times. Vaz was more careful with the ball throwing 11 touchdowns and just one pick. Mannion should still get the start in the Alamo Bowl.
No matter who has been under center they have been fortunate enough to throw to one of the best receiving tandems in the country. Markus Wheaton (88 receptions, 1,207 yards, 11 TDs) and Brandin Cooks (64 receptions, 1,129 yards, 5 TDs) have accounted for over 60 percent of the Beavers' total receiving yards and also hauled in 16 of 27 touchdowns. Wheaton brought in 12 passes in the regular-season finale to set the new career record for receptions (224) at Oregon State. Cook and Wheaton were one of just two teammates in the country, along with Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin of West Virginia, to each amass 1,000 yards through the air.
In terms of running the ball, Storm Woods is the lead option. Woods leads the team in carries (171), while rushing for 822 yards and 11 touchdowns. Terron Ward serves as backup and has been more than capable in that regard. Ward has rushed for 403 yards on 62 carries for 6.3 ypc and has also scored five touchdowns.
Overall, Oregon State was among the top 40 teams in the country in terms of both total offense (442.7 ypg) and scoring (33.0 ppg). The Beavers are especially efficient when they are able to get into scoring situations. Among FBS schools, OSU is 10th in red zone efficiency, scoring 90.6 percent of the time.
There's no question as to who leads Oregon State on the defensive side of the ball. Senior cornerback Jordan Poyer has racked up 46 tackles but more importantly has recorded seven interceptions and 14 passes defended. For his efforts Poyer was selected as a First-Team All-American. Michael Docter (72 tackles, 10.5 TFL) and Rashaad Reynolds (70 tackles, 3 INTs) are the team leaders in tackles and Scott Crichton (42 tackles, 17.0 TFL, 9.0 sacks) is a solid pass rusher.
Led by Poyer, the Beavers are the 17th best defensive team nationally in terms of opposing quarterback passing efficiency (110.8 rating). The Beavers have the 22nd best scoring defense (19.8 ppg) in the country and have done a solid job of creating turnovers, ranking 19th nationally in turnover margin (+10).
Texas will have a bit of a different look on the offensive side of the ball in this contest. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, who took on play-calling responsibilities this season, was hired as the head coach at Arkansas State and will not be on the sideline. In his place co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite will be calling plays.
While Harsin was calling the shots Texas was just the sixth best offense in the Big-12 this season (441.0 ypg), while scoring 36.1 points per game (24th nationally). The Longhorns were also 37th in red zone success rate (85.0 percent).
David Ash has taken the majority of snaps at quarterback this season for Texas. Ash has completed 67.7 percent of his throws, for 2,458 yards and 17 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. Ash has thrown for more than 300 yards three times and is largely kept upright by an offensive line that has yielded only eight sacks all year. Case McCoy (54-of-76, 772 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs) is a serviceable backup, who made appearances in six games in 2012. McCoy however, has been suspended for this game, as has linebacker Jordan Hicks. It has been reported that both are being investigated by police for an alleged sexual assault that took place early Friday morning.
Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are the top receiving threats for the Longhorns. Davis (54 receptions, 909 yards, 7 TDs) leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns and has four games of 100 or more yards. Shipley (51 receptions, 649 yards, 6 TDs) is just behind Davis in receptions but has been more of a possession receiver. Marquise Goodwin (22 receptions) is the only other player on the squad to have brought in more than 20 catches.
Texas relies on a tandem out of the backfield in the running game. Jonathan Gray (142 carries, 683 yards, 3 TDs) leads the way, while Joe Bergeron (565 yards, 16 TDs) has been utilized frequently around the goal line. Both struggled down the stretch by totaling just 91 yards combined during the Longhorns' last two games.
Normally a strong defensive squad, the Longhorns were rather pedestrian this season. Texas is ranked 76th nationally in total defense (412.3 ypg) and is also outside the top 70 programs in the country in points allowed (29.4 ppg). The Longhorns really struggled with their inability to come up with stops in the red zone. Texas ranks 117th out of 124 FBS schools by allowing opponents to score on 90.6 percent of their attempts inside the 20.
Although their production was not particularly impressive there is still a great deal of talent on the Longhorns' defensive unit. That is especially true of All-Big 12 First-Team selection Alex Okafor. The defensive end has racked up the third-most sacks in the conference (8.0), while forcing three fumbles and recording 60 tackles total. Okafor has dealt with an ankle injury this season but is listed as probable for the Alamo Bowl. Kenny Vaccaro (100 tackles) is one of two players on the roster to have reached the century mark in tackles and was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team. Steve Edmond (101 tackles) led the team in tackles and was an All-Big 12 honorable mention selection.