Offense in 2nd half provided glimpse of the future
Heading into the game, there was talk about increasing the tempo in order to help get David Ash into a better rhythm, but most changes in the offense were expected to be made in the spring. Based on what happened in the Alamo Bowl, it was clear that Ash was able to finally get on track when Texas did start to play faster and put Oregon State on their heels.
With more spread personnel groupings that kept ineffective blockers off the field when Texas couldn't run the ball in the 1st half and the introduction of the quarterback draw game that Bryan Harsin had never shown, Ash took off.
Instead of the stubbornness that Harsin often showed trying to establish the run, Applewhite made it clear that he's willing to limit his personnel groups to keep the defense from substituting and is committed to running more plays every game, with less motioning and shifting. Both are positive developments for the Longhorns.
More than that, though, the reverse to Goodwin and a number of touches for DJ Monroe, even though the first jet sweep was blown up, showed a commitment to working the edges of the Oregon Stated defense. Applewhite was also willing to stretch the field vertically with a number of shot plays, having nearly gotten a touchdown to Goodwin early in the game on the same play that was used on the final touchdown.
Applewhite said after the game that he wants to pick up the pace to allow some easier decision for Ash. After the slow start, both were able to start clicking by doing just that.
The defensive line stepped up in the big way
The performance from Alex Okafor in his final game as a Longhorn was absolutely outstanding and put a ton of plays on film that will help him tremendously when the NFL Draft rolls around in the spring.
However, it was the glimpses of the future that proved more heartening. The light may not have exactly turned on for Reggie Wilson yet, but there were flashes in the Alamo Bowl as he heads into a big senior season. Cedric Reed looks like a strong potential strongside end next season sharing time with Wilson and is starting to come into his own physically as he adds strength to his long frame.
Even without Ashton Dorsey in the rotation, the defensive tackles had a strong day, too, with Desmond Jackson winning some major battles in the final half and Chris Whaley making some nice hustle plays. Throw in Malcom Brown and there is plenty of potential for this group to continue doing major work against the run and the pass next season -- at times it seemed as if the only way that Texas was going to stop the run was by defensive linemen making great individual plays.
Which they did on a number of occasions to stymie Oregon State offensively in the 2nd half.
The linebackers still need to grow
In the first half, the play against the run was pretty abysmal. Local product Storm Woods gained almost 100 yards rushing heading through some gaping holes as the linebackers once again struggled to control their gaps, which once again falls on Diaz.
Perhaps due to the ankle injury, Steve Edmond wasn't moving well and may be a guy the Longhorns need to consider moving down to defensive end, especially since Jake Raulerson is the only 2013 prospect coming in at the position. Kendall Thompson was notably blocked once again on a touchdown run from Storm Woods in the 1st half when he showed little ability or inclination to hit and separate, a problem he's had at times all season.
The bright spots once again were Tevin Jackson and Peter Jinkens. The latter made a key play early in the game using his quickness to avoid a blocker and stepping in front of a screen pass, though the offense could not convert. He finished with 8 tackles. Jackson had a few moments when he wasn't quite in the right position, but finished with 7 tackles and 1 sack. Dalton Santos added 6 tackles and 1 sack.
There's some promise with those younger players, so Thompson and Edmond will be in some serious battles to maintain the level of playing time that they saw in 2012.
The offensive line wasn't good enough again
It's a bit hard to assess the development of this Texas offensive line under Stacy Searels. The group improved mightily in avoiding giving up the negative plays that stalled so many drives in 2011, but there were penalties, holding calls, false starts, and lost battles in the trenches.
Mason Walters was pulled late after getting beat on the 3rd and 1 run by Joe Bergeron before Johnathan Gray converted the 4th and 1 from the Wildcat, Dom Epinosa was once again beat by a stronger center on David Ash's interception, and Sedrick Flowers wasn't able to beat out Luke Poehlmann for the starting job at guard replacing the injured Trey Hopkins.
Overall, Texas averaged less than two yards per carry outside of Goodwin's run, gaining only 53 yards on 30 carries.
Give the big, strong Oregon State front four credit -- they ranked right up there with Oklahoma and TCU as the best group that Texas has faced this season.
The problem is that for the returning starting five, do they have a chance to make another big leap next season and hold their own when evenly matched? The answer right now seems to be no. They haven't done it yet, so where is the evidence to think that they can next year?
The identity of the team may be one that is changing offensively to work more in space and less from power formations going against eight defenders in the box. But there will be times when Applewhite wants to run the football, especially when trying to hold leads late in the game. The starting line can push around groups like Texas Tech, but they will have to be better to get Texas where they want to be next season.