9-4 isn't anything to brag about. But the way Texas played in its 2012 finale could help ensure that it's 2013 season will be.
The Longhorns entered this game with a new play-caller in Major Applewhite. They were without a backup quarterback that was actually a quarterback in Alex King. And they had to shake the distraction of suspensions handed down to Case McCoy and Jordan Hicks, who were accused of sexually assaulting a woman early Friday morning.
With every reason to lose, Texas found a way to win. The Longhorns failed to record a first down in the first quarter and turned in a first-half effort similar to the disappointing losses to TCU and Kansas State at the end of their regular season.
Despite its running backs totaling only 39 rushing yards on 17 carries, committing seven more penalties than its opponent and getting outgained 228-123 in the first half, Texas beat Oregon State, 31-27 in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Saturday night.
Applewhite's offense got off to an anemic start but came alive in the second half, particularly on its final two drives. He called several designed runs for quarterback David Ash — a wrinkle that was inexplicably not put in Texas' offense before — and re-energized the unit.
One of those runs went 11 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. But it took two more scores by Ash to give Texas its first lead.
Armed with a confidence not seen in more than a month, Ash somehow freed himself from multiple Beavers defenders to loft a 15-yard touchdown toss to freshman tailback Johnathan Gray.
Then, on the Longhorns' next possession, the sophomore signal-caller left us with plenty of reason to be excited about next year. He unleashed a 36-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin for the game-winning score.
Texas will miss Goodwin, who also found the end zone on a 64-yard second-quarter run and averaged more than 26 yards per touch in his last game in a Longhorns uniform. Alex Okafor, who was responsible for 4.5 of Texas' nine sacks, will also be sorely missed.
But the Longhorns are finally poised to return to prominence next year. Ash's three second-half touchdowns and helping Texas overcome a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit point to a bright future for Longhorns football.
As does a defense that returns nine starters next year and will presumably have a healthy Jackson Jeffcoat at its disposal. Texas gave up the most yards of any team in school history this season, but with young talent like linebacker Peter Jinkens and defensive tackle Malcom Brown, its defense should improve in 2013.
More importantly, this Alamo Bowl victory proves that Texas should improve on its 9-4 mark in 2013.