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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Decisions that defined Texas in 2012: No. 3

By Carter Strickland

Ah, decisions. Coaches make them and then everyone criticizes them. Of course, not all of them are bad. Many are celebrated. For Texas this year it a little bit of both. This week HornsNation will take a look at the top five critical decisions made by Texas and the result of each of those decisions. Today, at No. 3, Major Applewhite stepping up to call plays in the Alamo Bowl.

David Ash
Quarterback David Ash led the Longhorns to a come-from-behind win to beat Oregon State.
AUSTIN, Texas -- For a while there Major Applewhite made many long for the good old days of Bryan Harsin.

The new play-caller’s offense was going nowhere. And Harsin, who could be equal parts electrifying and mystifying as a play-caller, had gone to Arkansas State. So there Applewhite was in the Alamo Bowl with an offense that had generated 10-points, despite two turnovers inside the Oregon State’s 30 and 124 overall first-half yards, more than half of which came on a 64-yard touchdown run.

So much for the plan to establish the run in order to set up the pass. Instead, Applewhite made the decision to go uptempo in an effort to get the offense going.

"I thought their plan was to be a lot of uptempo and no huddle and the first half they weren't doing it," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "And I said, 'Hey, forget it, let's go. Let's just do what you came in to do,’ because they were going to try to establish the run early and then get something going, and we couldn't block them.

"I thought we got them on their heels with the no huddle and I thought it was a great move by the offensive staff," he added. "And I thought it changed the game and then got David [Ash] some rhythm."

Ash, who had been benched in the regular season finale partly due to injury and partly due to performance, was able to find a groove in the second half. He finished the game hitting seven straight passes. In the fourth quarter he led two touchdown drives and accounted for 158 yards of offense via the pass and by running.

Not only did the move to the uptempo offense allow Texas to get a come-from-behind win, it served as a catalyst for the offseason.

Ash was able to walk into the offseason with confidence in abilities. And maybe more importantly his teammates were able to gain some measure of confidence in him. This was a much more convincing performance than his paper MVP one in the 2011 Holiday Bowl.

In addition, Applewhite answered questions about his ability to adjust and adapt his gameplan. That he proved not to be rigid in the execution of that gameplan showed that Texas might be able to make the halftime adjustments necessary to pull out wins instead of so often being on the wrong end of those adjustments.

And, finally, by changing the offense it allowed Texas to get that ninth win, which in turn will allow Brown and company to at least point to what they say is tangible evidence the program is changing for the better. After all, nine is one better than eight and four better than five.