Alamo Bowl preview: Oregon looking to spoil Mack Brown’s Texas farewell
There are perhaps two expected narratives for the Alamo Bowl. In one, No. 10 Oregon, angry about its absence among the BCS bowls, plays like the top team it was supposed to be and dismantles Texas. In the other, the Longhorns send Mack Brown, who is stepping down as coach after the game, off with a win. Will the Ducks show up for a non-BCS bowl? Will Brown finish his legendary Texas career with one more win? And what will Oregon’s uniforms look like? The answers are coming soon.
Who: No. 10 Oregon (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) vs. Texas (8-4, 7-2 Big 12)
What: Valero Alamo Bowl
When: Monday, Dec. 30 at 3:45 PT
Where: The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas
Where to watch: ESPN with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) and Holly Rowe (sideline).
All-time record: Texas leads 4-1
Last meeting: 2000 Holiday Bowl (Oregon won, 35-30)
Rushing offense: Oregon 278.2 ypg (9th in NCAA), Texas 197.6 ypg (36th in NCAA)
Passing offense: Oregon 294.7 ypg (20th in NCAA), Texas 225.5 ypg (73rd in NCAA)
Scoring offense: Oregon 46.8 ppg (3rd in NCAA), Texas 31.2 ppg (55th in NCAA)
Rushing defense: Oregon 164.3 ypg (67th in NCAA), Texas 180.3 ypg (81st in NCAA)
Passing defense: Oregon 216.9 ypg (39th in NCAA), Texas 221.8 ypg (47th in NCAA)
Scoring defense: Oregon 21.6 ppg (25th in NCAA), Texas 25.5 ppg (56th in NCAA)
How they got there
The Ducks were undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country entering their Nov. 7 road matchup with No. 6 Stanford. Through its first eight games, Oregon was as dominant as any team in the country, with a 45-point win over Tennessee, a 21-point win over No. 16 Washington and a 28-point win over No. 12 UCLA. The Ducks were on the fast track to the national championship. They were running away with the Pac-12 conference crown — that is, until they ran into the brick wall that was Stanford’s defense.
Oregon, which finished the season as the nation’s third-highest scoring team, was held scoreless until 10:11 in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal was actually up 26-0 before the Ducks scored 20 in a row for a more respectable final score. Marcus Mariota, the highly efficient dual-threat quarterback, perhaps the Heisman Trophy frontrunner at the time, completed 20 of 34 passes for a 46.5 QB rating and finished with a negative rushing total.
Oregon followed up the loss with a 23-point pounding of Utah but the week afterward, the Ducks laid an egg at Arizona, with an uncharacteristic and surprising 42-16 blowout loss that kicked them out of the Pac-12 title game. Even with a rebound win against Oregon State to close out the regular season, Oregon was shut out of a BCS bowl.
The Longhorns opened the season losing two of their first three games, including a 19-point loss to BYU and a 21-point loss to Ole Miss. The less-than-stellar start put head coach Mack Brown’s job thoroughly on the hot seat.
Then Texas turned things around with six wins in a row, including a 36-20 triumph over Oklahoma. Both Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown topped 100 yards on the ground for the Longhorns in that game. Texas lost two of its final three games — to top-10 squads Oklahoma State and Baylor — but did crush Texas Tech, 41-16.
Gray and Brown each rushed for nearly 800 yards, while All-American kicker Anthony Fera converted on 20 of 22 field goals, including a 50-yarder.
In his first season as Oregon’s head coach, Mark Helfrich led the Ducks to their sixth-straight 10-win season and a national ranking as high as No. 2. Even after Oregon lost the Pac-12 season’s marquee matchup to Stanford, the Ducks had the inside track to the conference title game until they were shocked by Arizona. At almost any other school, Helfrich’s debut season would have been a remarkable achievement. At Oregon, however, the attitude is more national championship or bust.
Mack Brown, Texas’s long-time head coach, is resigning after the Alamo Bowl. Under Brown, the Longhorns won 158 games, including the 2005 national championship, but are just 30-20 over the last four seasons.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota — The redshirt sophomore, whom many still regard as the best in the country even after slowing down from his sizzling start to the season, ranked ninth in the country with 223.8 total yards of offense per game. He tallied 39 total touchdowns and did not throw an interception until the second-to-last game of the season.
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu — The junior was named to the All-Pac-12 first team for the second year in a row after a regular season in which he recorded three interceptions, 78 tackles, four tackles for loss and six pass breakups.
Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat — The first-team All-American was tied for third in the country with 12 sacks on the season. The 6-5, 250-pound senior who won the Ted Hendricks Award for college football’s top defensive end also logged 73 tackles.
- Oregon is playing in its ninth consecutive bowl game.
- The Ducks’ Alamo Bowl appearance ends their streak of four straight BCS bowls, one of only six teams to accomplish that.
- Texas is playing in its 15th bowl, and third Alamo Bowl, under head coach Mack Brown.
- The Longhorns have won seven of their last eight bowl games.
Keys to the game
On playing in the Alamo Bowl: “Top to bottom, our guys will be very excited for this challenge, to finish it right, to win your bowl game, whatever that is,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said at the Alamo Bowl press conference. “It's an opportunity to work with our young guys, develop our depth. Then you want to put an exclamation point at the end of the season rather than dot, dot, dot.”
On Texas and Mack Brown: “It's an honor for me personally to sit next to Coach Brown and compete against the University of Texas,” Helfrich said. “He's an icon of our game, an iconic program. Very excited to prepare to compete against them.”
On Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota: “Marcus Mariota is a top‑notch guy in every form, excellent person, excellent student and excellent football player, a guy our guys have rallied round,” Helfrich said. “We think Marcus is pretty special.”
On playing in the Alamo Bowl: “We told our guys you don't get to choose where you go. You have to win to go where you get to go,” Texas head coach Mack Brown said. “This bunch is loved by a lot of Texas Longhorn fans and we're playing against a good team.”
On Oregon’s offense: “I don't think anybody compares,” Brown said. “They started the up‑tempo stuff to be as fast as anybody in the country. They don't give you an opportunity to line up. It makes it very, very difficult. They have tremendous team speed.
On Mariota: “Their quarterback to me is as good as anybody in America,” Brown said. “He's unbelievable. He can run, he can throw, he's the leader. He's the guy. When their backs touch it, they have a chance to score every time they touch it. Their receivers, you have to spend so much time on their receiving game, one‑on‑one situations, it puts you in a bind.”