Art Briles was asked a peculiar question following Baylor's Holiday Bowl win on Thursday night, when one reporter wanted to know what his interest level was in the Texas head coaching job…You know, assuming it came open in the off-season.
Now to Briles’ credit, the Baylor coach handled the situation about as well as anyone could (by literally giggling at the mere idea of it, before moving on to the next question), but the very fact that it was even posed shows you how bad things had gotten in Austin. Mack Brown likely wasn’t going to be fired if Texas lost the Alamo Bowl Saturday night. But he very could've been coaching to keep his job entering 2013.
For at least one night though, Brown can rest easy. Not only will he not be fired, but there won’t even be conversation about it on Saturday night. Not after the Longhorns used a big fourth quarter to cap a wild, 31-27 come from behind victory over the Beavers in the Alamo Bowl.
Mack Brown ain’t going anywhere. At least not right now anyway.
For Texas, the story of the game may have been two fourth quarter touchdown passes from David Ash, but the difference in victory was undoubtedly Texas’ pass defense. It was a unit which not only played their best game of the season, but played quite literally the best game in Alamo Bowl history.
That’s because while Oregon State was able to run the ball effectively on Saturday night (since really, who didn’t against the Longhorns this year?), Texas more than made up for it every time the Beavers dropped back to pass. The Longhorns set an Alamo Bowl record with 10 sacks (crushing the previous record of five), with senior end Alex Okafor accounting for 4.5 on his own. Texas’ final sack came on Oregon State’s final offensive play of the game, sealing the victory.
Of course while the defense was the difference, quarterback David Ash was quietly masterful under center as well. For a guy who dealt with a benching during the season and a pseudo-controversy in the lead-up to this game (his primary competition for snaps, Case McCoy, was sent back to Austin for violating team rules) Ash played one of the best games of his career against Oregon State. He completed 21 of 33 passes for 271 yards but most importantly, led a wild fourth comeback to victory that saw him throw two touchdown passes in the final eight minutes. The final one, with just 2:24 left, gave Texas its first and only lead of the game.
And speaking of the win, what a big one it was. It might not be enough to silence all the doubters in Austin, but they certainly are quieter than they were 24 hours ago.
Look, it’s like we said at the top, there was- and probably still is- a large contingent of people in Texas who are unhappy with where the Longhorns’ program is now and where its headed in the future. That tends to happen when you win at least 10 games every season from 2001-2009, then follow it up by winning “only” 22 over the next three. Even this year’s 9-4 mark was seen as a bit of a disappointment; up until Saturday night, Texas beat only one ranked team all season. That victory was against Texas Tech, which went just 2-3 in its final five games of the regular season.
But with the win there is now at least hope. Hope that Saturday’s win can springboard the Longhorns into some sort of bigger picture college football relevance heading into 2013.
Looking at this thing objectively, there’s no reason that it can’t. Texas returns an ungodly amount of talent next fall, with Ash a true sophomore, leading rusher Johnathan Gray a true freshman and nine of 11 starters on defense coming back for another season as well. Realistically there’s no reason to think this team shouldn’t be favored to win the Big XII and return to a BCS bowl game.
The problem of course, is that talent is never the issue in Austin, not as much as simple execution on game-day. It was forgivable in 2010 and 2011 and much less so in 2012. It will be inexcusable in 2013 if a team with so much star power and so many highly rated recruits doesn’t win, and win big.
But that’s the future and this is now. And for at least one day, Mack Brown is off the hot seat and can simply sit back and enjoy a much needed victory.
For all his opinion, analysis and insight, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.