December 29, 2013

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Making the most of it

Texas, Oregon hope to close out season on high note

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Mack Brown didn’t want to go out like this, and No. 10 Oregon didn’t want its season to end here.

That makes tonight’s Alamo Bowl a finale for two programs making the best of disappointment: Texas (8-4) wanting a fond farewell for Brown after the tension surrounding his resignation, and the Ducks (10-2) denied a BCS bowl for the first time in five years.

“The expectation for both of these programs is to be playing in the last game at the end of the year, and neither one of us are doing that,” Brown said Sunday.

Speaking publicly for just the second time since announcing this month that he would leave Texas after 16 seasons, Brown sidestep questions about the circumstances surrounding his exit and whether he will coach again. He said the only thing he would’ve done differently this season was win all the games and enjoy the “happy moms and dads and happy media and happy fans” that come with it.

“We’ve done that, and it’s a lot more fun,” Brown said.

The Ducks’ chances of playing for a national title after four consecutive BCS bowl appearances were dashed in November after losing to Stanford. Two weeks later, Oregon was pummeled by Arizona.

First-year Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said the disappointment of the Stanford loss created some “stragglers.” He said he could’ve done a better job to manage that.

“There was absolutely some disappointment, kind of punched-in-the-gut type of feeling for a few guys that just needed to grow up and realize that there was a lot of ball left to be played,” Helfrich said. “And as it played out, we could have played ourselves into a better situation – quote, unquote – but we didn’t earn that.”

Five things to know about the Alamo Bowl:

1. IT’S MARIOTA’S WARM-UP FOR 2014: Oregon QB Marcus Mariota’s announcement this month that he’ll return for his junior season all but assures he’ll shatter every school passing record before he finally does leave. He’s got a chance to start the 2014 Heisman Trophy buzz now if he can put up another showcase game against Texas to cap a season in which he put up nearly 4,000 yards of total offense.

2) CASE (AND THE McCOY ERA) CLOSED: Colt McCoy left Texas in 2009 with a then-NCAA record for quarterback victories (45) and a BCS title game appearance. Case’s prospects of even playing his final year were uncertain after being named the backup. But with starter David Ash injured most of the season, Case has the chance to end the McCoy era at Texas with 55 starting quarterback victories in the family.

3) A FINAL DUCK CALL FOR ALIOTTI: Like Mack Brown, longtime Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is also stepping down after the Alamo Bowl. He’s leaving after 38 years in coaching and revealed this week he wanted to retire last season but didn’t to ease the transition after Chip Kelly left for the NFL.

4) RUN AWAY: Underdog Texas will likely need a big game from RB Malcom Brown and its depleted backfield, especially after WR Daje Johnson was ruled academically ineligible and left the Longhorns without another playmaker. Oregon’s run defense took some flak after giving up 578 yards on the ground in its two losses to Arizona and Stanford, but Aliotti says those numbers are misleading.

“They ran the ball 66 times,” Aliotti said about Stanford. “They didn’t have to throw it. Tough to answer it this way, but we didn’t play very well on offense.”

5) MUST-SEE TV? The Alamo Bowl has been a reliable bet for thrilling finishes. Seven of the last eight games were decided by a touchdown or less, including Texas’ victory last season and Robert Griffin III leading Baylor in 2011 to a 67-56 win that remains the highest-scoring bowl game ever in regulation. But that run of drama will be tested with Oregon entering as heavy favorites.

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