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Valero Alamo Bowl- Oregon to End Mack Brown’s Career with a loss

Could the end of Mack Brown’s career end with a loss in the Valero Alamo Bowl?

Oregon (10-2) Vs Texas (8-4)

6:45 PM ET

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Oregon Offense:

There is an absolute ton of talent on this offense, but there is absolutely no question who the star of the show is – quarterback Marcus Mariota. The sophomore was a Heisman candidate for most of the season before a gimpy knee hindered his play down the stretch. When he’s at the top of his game, he’s an athletic guy whose running ability makes him an even greater threat as a passer. When he was injured, he was still a very capable passer, but his reduced mobility made it easier for opponents to tee off on him. So far he has completed 63.1% of his passes for 3412 yards and 30 TDs, and just 4 interceptions. He has also rushed for 582 yards on 81 carries, scoring 9 times on the ground. His rushing stats would have been greatly increased if he was 100% healthy. The time off for the bowl game has given him time to heal, and Mariota has had his knee brace removed, giving Texas defenders something else to worry about. What’s even scarier is, had his receivers been a little more sure-handed, Mariota’s numbers could be even greater. They’re still a good bunch, led by Josh Huff and Bralon Addison, who combined for 113 catches for 1878 yards and 18 scores. Don’t go to sleep on freshman tight end Johnny Mundt (15-261-3) either – he showed the ability to make big plays if defenses turned their eyes elsewhere.

Mariota isn’t the only rushing threat either, and this season the Ducks have gone with a trio of dangerous runners. D’Anthony Thomas (93-581-8) is most electric runner on the team (if not the FBS), but has been banged up this season. Sophomore Byron Marshall (155-995-14) has also missed time with injury, but has had the lion’s share of the carries. He missed the final game, but should be good to go for Monday. Thomas Tyner (109-689-9) saw plenty of action too. Far from a third wheel, the freshman stepped it up in the final game, cranking out  140 yards against Oregon State. The offensive line is a standard Oregon unit; they won’t power over anyone, but they run their assignments to perfection. The o-line paved the way for 278 yards per game on the ground and allowed just 16 sacks, but their weaknesses for highlighted against Stanford, when they mustered just 62 on the ground. Center Hroniss Grasu and tackle Tyler Johnstone lead the group.

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Texas Defense:

How the heck is the Longhorns defense going to stop the Ducks? Well, the blueprint is in place, courtesy of Stanford, and to a lesser degree, Arizona, but can Texas replicate it? They certainly have talent to equal, if not better, mighty Stanford, but having players with talent, and having them realize it, is a different matter altogether. To be fair,the Longhorn defense was better than advertised. After getting torched for 550 yards on the ground by BYU, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired and replaced by Greg Robinson. and played a lot tougher down the stretch. The run defense over the course of the season allowed over 4 yards per carry in only 5 games, and teams had to fight for their yards. Still, they weren’t perfect, giving up 21 TDs on the ground and struggling on 3rd and short. Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed were a pair of gangbusters on the defensive line, while sophomore linebacker Dalton Santos flashed the ability to make plays.

A strong pass rush helped bail out the secondary, with Jackson and Reed leading the fray with a combined 21 sacks. The defensive backs, led by corner Qandre Diggs (10 PBUs) and safety Adrian Phillips (2 Ints), held opposing passers to a mere 56% complete and just 12 TD passes. Chuck in a 37% conversion rate on 3rd down and you have a defense that could cause some problems for the Ducks. However, in the two big losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor late in the season, the Longhorns’ struggling offense was as much a factor in the defensive struggles, as Texas was worn down as the game progressed.

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Texas Offense:

After a far-too-lengthy stretch where the Longhorns struggled to move the ball effectively on the ground, it was great to see them get back to brass tacks, using a power-running attack to bully opponents into submission. It didn’t always work, but that wasn’t necessarily the fault of the running attack, but more on that later. The offensive line, led by tackle Donald Hawkins, was the key. They weren’t flashy, but they do a good job of bulling over opponents and making holes for Texas’ plethora of running backs. Like Oregon, the Longhorns have a fine collection of backs. Also like the Ducks, Texas had their injury woes at the position, perhaps even more so. While a committee approach is more the norm in Austin, the Longhorns leaned on a couple of backs this season. Sophomore Jonathan Gray carried the load early, picking up 780 yards and 4 TDs on 159 carries, but missed the last 3 games due to injury (Achilles). Sadly, he’s out for the season. Malcolm Brown picked up the slack in Gray’s absence, coming a close second with 774 yards and 9 scores on 188 carries. He’ll get the nod on Monday. The hope is Joe Bergeron (65-341-4) will be good to go as well, but he’s currently listed as “questionable”. Expect Texas to load up at the line of scrimmage and attempt to run over the Ducks speedy defense.

More of a concern that depth at running back may be the passing game, or lack thereof. Early on, the passing game looked decent in the hands of David Ash, but the junior was knocked out for the season, leaving Case McCoy at the helm. Needless to say, McCoy’s Texas career has hardly been reminiscent of his brother Colt’s, and he was too inconsistent, particularly when the running game was struggling. Case completed 57.4% of his passes, but threw for just 1885 yards, with 11 TDs and 11 interceptions. To be fair, it wasn’t all McCoy’s fault, as the receivers had their problems with drops too. The Baylor game was a perfect example – McCoy often overthrew open receivers with little pressure, but he also threw some lasers that were simply dropped by receivers who had a chance to make a play. Despite the Longhorns talent at receiver, this happened far too often. Texas spread the ball around to a bunch of receivers, but Mike Davis (49-715-8) and Jaxon Shipley (55-581-1) were the top guys. The passing woes were even more puzzling when you consider the offensive line kept their quarterbacks clean most of the season, allowing just 14 sacks.

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Oregon Defense:

You’ll hear the term “speed defense” bandied about a lot in regard to the Ducks’ unit, but the truth is, they’re so much more than that. True, they were beaten to a pulp by Stanford in consecutive years, but who isn’t? Other teams have tried to replicate the success of the Cardinal, and failed accordingly. This season though, the run defense has had its problems, giving up over 200 yards in 4 of its last 5 games, but overall allowed just 3.8 yards per carry. One particularly telling stat is their allowing the highest yards per carry in the 4th quarter of games, perhaps a product of spending too much time on the field with their quick strike offense? Weakside linebacker Derrick Malone leads the team with 102 tackles. Despite their struggles, with the problems in the Texas aerial attack, expect the Ducks to cause problems in the Longhorn run game.

Despite the concerns with the run defense, the secondary was a different animal. The pass rush, led by junior defensive end Tony Washington (7.5 sacks), was pretty good, but far from dominant. This was a problem on occasion, when opposing passers could sit back and take pick the Ducks apart, but it was the exception to the rule. When you consider early in the season when teams were passing to make games respectable, and were playing against Oregon’s 3rd-stringers, their accomplishments were impressive. The Ducks secondary allowed opposing passers to complete 56% of their attempts, averaging 222 yards per game, with just 14 TDs against 15 interceptions. The most impressive stat was allowing less than 10 yards per completion. When you take into consideration that California passed for 557 yards, much of which came against reserves, their accomplishments look even better. McCoy better think before he throws against this bunch. Cornerback Terrance Mitchell was the star of the unit with 5 interceptions, but running-mate Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was no slouch opposite him, coming second on the team with 78 tackles.

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Oregon Special Teams:

The Ducks replaced much-maligned kicker Alejandro Maldonado with freshman Matt Wogan mid-season, and got better results, as Wogan his 4 of 5 field goals. Of course, being an Oregon kicker is generally a PAT specialist, and Wogan wasn’t tested with any potential game-winners – consider it a question mark for the Alamo Bowl. Wogan also booted 7 kickoffs out of bounds, a big no-no for any kicker. Maldonado maintained the punting job, and was solid. He only punted 38 times, but he dropped 11 inside the 20, with no touchbacks. More importantly, only 6 of his punts were returned. Thomas is a threat to score any time he returns a kickoff, and took one back already this season, while Addison is just as good returning punts. He scored twice on returns. The coverage units are okay, while the unit blocked 3 kicks.

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Texas Special Teams:

The Longhorns are in great shape at kicker with Anthony Fera, who nailed 20 of 22 field goals this season, with his misses from 44 and 45 yards. It’s not a range issue either, as he hit from 49 and 50. Fera is also a dab hand at punting. He has a pedestrian gross of 40.6, but he dropped 28 inside the 20 (3 touchbacks), and forced a whopping 36 fair catches. Texas were average at best returning kicks, but Shipley has done a good job returning punts in Daje Johnson’s absence. Despite allowing a punt return for a score, the coverage unit is good, but the kicking unit is a weakness. The Longhorns blocked 2 kicks.



The game will probably be pretty close, at least for the first three quarters, as the Longhorns try to “win one for the Gipper”, as this will be Mack Brown’s last game at the helm. But Oregon’s superior game fitness will wear them down by the time the 4th quarter rolls around. Expect something in the region of 42-28 to the Ducks.


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