SAN ANTONIO — The Alamo Bowl came down to defense.
The Oregon State football team played well on the defensive side over the first three quarters. Texas, meanwhile, started to perform at a high level in the second half.
When the offense got on track for the Longhorns in the end, that’s proved to be the difference.
The No. 15-ranked Beavers left the Alamodome stunned. They were the best team on the field heading into the fourth quarter, but let the game slipped away before a crowd of 65,277.
Texas (9-4) scored on a 36-yard touchdown pass from David Ash to Marquise Goodwin with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left to take its first lead.
OSU (9-4) had one more shot, but was swarmed under by the Longhorns’ pass rush. Quarterback Cody Vaz was sacked 10 times, 4.5 from defensive end Alex Okafor.
“It was a close game all the way to the end,” Vaz said. “That’s a game we let slip away. Texas was a really good team, but we let it slip out of our hands.”
Vaz had a rough game besides the sacks. He threw two interceptions and fumbled once.
Two of his turnovers came in the first quarter when his defense was playing well.
Vaz threw a bad pick on a screen to Peter Jinkens. The defense and special teams bailed him out when Scott Crichton blocked a 46-yard field goal attempt.
Unga and Ryan Murphy combined on a 37-yard return to set up a 29-yard field goal by Trevor Romaine.
Vaz was then stripped of the ball when he dropped back to pass to give Texas possession on the OSU 30-yard line.
That was his second turnover in two plays. The defense salvaged the situation when it forced a quick field goal.
Vaz settled down to guide the Beavers on a 12-play, 75-yard drive on the next possession. He made better decisions and found tight end Connor Hamlett as a key receiver.
Running back Storm Woods got on track that drive with some strong runs. He finished it off with a 12-yard TD on a draw and put the Beavers up 10-3 after the first quarter.
OSU’s defense was so dominant in the first quarter that Texas gained a mere 23 yards and no first downs.
“We made a lot of good plays,” coach Mike Riley said. “Defensively, I was proud of our team. There was a ton of good defense against a good team with a lot of good athletes.”
Texas had 123 total yards at halftime and 64 of them came on a double reverse that Goodwin ran in for a touchdown
OSU forced five punts and stopped the Longhorns on downs once. A Kevin Unga interception in the third quarter set up a touchdown. Defensive tackle Andrew Seumalo hit Ash and the ball fluttered to Unga.
The Beavers then punched the ball into the end zone on a two-yard carry by Woods with 9 seconds left in the third quarter. The Beavers were up 27-17 and confident.
“I felt we played one half of football,” safety Ryan Murphy said. “Texas came out better than us in the second half. We had this game in the first half, but it’s on us players to keep ourselves focused in on to finish the task.”
Texas turned the tide when Ash was let loose on quarterback draws. He had trouble passing and Texas couldn’t run with the running backs.
OSU’s longtime weakness — a mobile quarterback – came up again. Ash kept plays alive with his feet and scored on an 11-yard run.
“It was busted plays here and there,” cornerback Jordan Poyer said “We felt confident in our game plan, especially early in the game. (Ash) was running draws and it caught us off guard. We hadn’t seen it on tape.”
The Longhorns had trouble stopping the run in the first half when they allowed 111 yards. They decided at halftime to blitz more to disrupt the running game.
It worked and OSU was forced into passing downs and the Longhorns kept coming. Vaz had little to no time, even on quick, short passes.
“In the second half we didn’t get back running the ball like we did in the fist half,” Riley said. “We took some bad plays on first down. I don’t think offensively we got things going. That allowed them too many chances.”
The defense saved the day all game, and just ran out of gas on the final Texas drive.
After stopping most of the big plays, Texas found one at the right time to win the game.
“We were probably on the field too much,” Riley said. “Offensively, we didn’t sustain enough. We didn’t get enough first downs to give our defense a chance. You give a team like that too many chances, that’s what going to happen to you. There was a lot of defense played by the Beavers, but in the end we had to play too much.”