A strange, disorienting season for Texas football comes to a close Saturday evening when the Longhorns (8-4, 5-4) and Oregon State Beavers (9-3, 6-3) meet in the 2012 Alamo Bowl. The game will kick off at 5:45 pm CT and is being broadcast nationally on ESPN, with Sean McDonough and Chris Spielman calling the action. For the opposing fans' perspective, be sure to check out SB Nation's excellent Oregon State blog, Building The Dam.
Texas' promising start to the season started to sputter in a disturbingly defense-less home loss to West Virginia, and then completely derailed the following week in the Cotton Bowl with Oklahoma's vicious, humiliating thrashing of a Longhorns team that quite literally didn't look like it even belonged on the field with the Sooners. The defeat was the team's third consecutive in the Red River Shootout and the fourth embarrassing blowout loss to Bob Stoops during the Mack Brown era.
Ever since, the majority of the discussion among Texas fans has -- quite understandably -- been about things other than the game on the field, sufficiently so that even before the disturbing allegations involving two Longhorn players, fans weren't talking much about the upcoming Alamo Bowl anyway.
The hope has to be that the apathy among the faithful has not infected the team's locker room, and insiders have told me that Mack Brown may have lost the team, but that his assistants -- first and foremost Major Applewhite -- have more than filled the void.
And that really gets to the heart of my interest in this game. In the grand scheme of things the outcome isn't an important one to this program, but over the past few weeks I have increasingly come around to the equal parts hopeful and cynical view that Major Applewhite represents the fulcrum point for a program teetering on the edge during the decline phase of Mack Brown's career. By all accounts the kid has the respect, fear, and love of the players on the team, and if his transition to the lead offensive coordinator goes well over the next 12 months, a happy ending may well be salvageable from all of this -- something that both the Texas program and fans desperately need if there is to be healthy closure to the Mack Brown era.
With Diaz presumably returning in 2013, it'd be nice to see the defense show some signs that bowl practices were put to productive use, but I'm most eager to see an inspiring performance from the offense, sending this bizarre season into the spring on a much needed high note.
The Alamo Bowl is a fun one to attend so long as your team shows up to play. Let's finish this thing with a win.
This is your Alamo Bowl game thread, Longhorns fans... Hook 'em