AUSTIN, Texas — This season was a history-making turnaround for the No. 15 Oregon State Beavers.
But in the final 10 minutes of it, everything turned on them.
Oregon State began the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl cruising toward its first 10-win season since 2006, but that opportunity unraveled when Texas quarterback David Ash shook off a rocky start to throw two late touchdowns passes, carrying the Longhorns to a 31-27 comeback win Saturday night.
The Beavers (9-4) entered the game already assured of a school-record turnaround after going 3-9 the year before. But after a sudden collapse — they had negative 4 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter — they’re ending the season disappointed instead of celebrating.
“It was definitely a game we let slip away,” quarterback Cody Vaz said. “I don’t take anything away from Texas, they are a great team, but I definitely feel we let this one slip out of our hands.”
Ash threw the go-ahead 36-yard touchdown strike to Marquise Goodwin with 2:24 left. The Longhorns (9-4) never led before Goodwin scored his second touchdown on that deep post pattern, just a down after Texas converted a fourth-and-1 play to keep its chances alive.
“I guess in in every situation you have to be thankful,” said Ash, who was pulled in a loss to TCU a month ago and wasn’t immediately selected the starter for the Alamo Bowl. “I learned a lot at TCU. It was a tough situation I was in. I was just really thankful I got another opportunity to play a game I love.”
With Texas down 20-10 at halftime, Longhorns coach Mack Brown said he told his players they would win.
“I told them this it wasn’t going to be easy, but I told them this game was ours and we would win it,” Brown said. “This one is really special.”
Storm Woods ran for 118 yards and scored two touchdowns for the Beavers.
“Not to take anything away from Texas, that was a great team offensively and defensively,” Wood said. “In the first half we had a great style of football. In the second half, Texas made some adjustments and I guess, they just wanted it more.”
The victory was a dose of much-needed good news for Texas after coming into the game under a cloud of questions following the suspensions of backup quarterback Case McCoy and injured linebacker Jordan Hicks.
Ash, whose been pulled at times for McCoy this season, was 21 of 33 for 241 yards. Ash sputtered until the fourth quarter, when he went 9 for 11 for 146 yards. Even if there were doubts about Ash before then, Texas had no choice but to stick with him: the only backups were two redshirt freshmen who haven’t taken a snap all season.
Brown announced the suspensions Friday but wouldn’t reveal which players were sent home. A person with knowledge of the suspensions told The Associated Press the players were McCoy and Hicks, speaking on condition of anonymity because Texas wasn’t releasing the names.
Brown addressed the suspensions during a previously schedule news conference and referred to a local TV report that police were investigating two unidentified Texas players in an alleged sexual assault at a San Antonio hotel. Police released a heavily redacted incident report that only identifies the suspects as two students, one 20 and the other 21.
Authorities are still investigating and no charges have been filed.
Brown said he would not address the suspensions further.
Vaz was 15 of 28 for 194 yards and two interceptions. The Beavers had negative 4 yards in the fourth quarter as they were muffled by the Longhorns defense that was led by Alex Okafor, who finished with 4 1/2 sacks.
“When we tried to just drop back and pass, it was difficult,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “That’s why Cody had to just hang in there. It was very, very tough. He made some plays and some other plays didn’t develop because he didn’t just have time.”
Although Goodwin’s touchdown catch might have won the game, two spectacular Texas plays in an earlier 83-yard scoring drive handed the Longhorns momentum — and a chance.
First was wide receiver Jaxon Shipley rescuing a pass sailing behind him with a dazzling one-handed grab at midfield. Ash made up for that off-target throw six plays later, slithering out of safety Anthony Watkins’ near-certain sack and flinging the ball to Johnathan Gray, who then zipped down the sideline for a 15-yard scoring play that got the Longhorns to 27-24
The Longhorns played for a national championship in 2009. What’s followed has been the shakiest of Brown’s 15 years at Texas: a combined 22-16 record, an overhaul of assistant coaches and stubborn instability at quarterback following seven spoiled years with Heisman Trophy finalists Colt McCoy — the suspended player’s brother — and Vince Young under center.
A surge of four consecutive victories late this season put this nine-win season in reach — a benchmark that had been the ho-hum standard of the Brown era. It comes following an unexpected twist earlier this month, when school President Bill Powers went to his blog to write that Brown had his “full support” and would remain the head coach.
Powers cited an increase an “increase in media speculation” about Brown’s future. It was published on his blog the same day Brown would not yet commit to Ash or Case McCoy as his starting quarterback for the Alamo Bowl.