SAN ANTONIO, Texas A healthy Marcus Mariota ran freely and effectively and the Oregon defense allowed virtually nothing although Texas didn't have much offense as the Ducks beat the Longhorns 30-7 Monday in the Alamo Bowl to successfully cap Mark Helfrich's first year as head coach.
Avery Patterson's 37-yard interception return for touchdown in the early going started the night, and Derrick Malone's 38-yard interception return for a touchdown essentially finished it.
The Ducks, once national championship contenders, finished 11-2 after the non-BCS bowl win in the Alamodome.
The UO defense played well and sent out retiring defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti victorious.
"Just a huge team win. A total team win," Helfrich said. "I'm very happy to send Nick out on the right note. I think his guys were playing for themselves, certainly playing for him, of being a much maligned group these last weeks, coming up huge."
The Longhorns, plagued by injuries and academic ineligibilities and really bad offense, finished 8-5 in Mack Brown's final of 16 seasons with Texas.
Oregon held the 'Horns to 56 yards passing and 180 yards on the ground.
"Our D-line did an incredible job today," Patterson said. "They're the reason we won."
The crowd of 65,918 was the second largest in Alamo Bowl history mostly Longhorns fans who showed up to see Brown's final game.
Mariota was the game's MVP. He completed 18 of 26 passes for 253 yards and a 16-yard touchdown to Josh Huff, and he ran for 132 yards on 12 first-half carries before finishing with 133 yards on 15 carries.
"He was incredible all night," Huff said. "He was able to use his legs and stay in the pocket and find receivers downfield."
Mariota had suffered a knee injury against UCLA and played the next four games through the injury. He played without a brace on Monday, and his mobility improved immensely, at least in the first half.
"He's still not 100 percent, which is scary," Helfrich said. "But the guy is special."
Mariota limped around in the second half, and mostly stayed in the pocket to pass or simply handed off to his running backs.
"I'm okay. Just out of shape," he said. "Got some cramps second half."
Mariota said Texas' defense enabled him to run as often and as well as he did in the first half.
Offensive coordinator Scott Frost "was joking all week he thought I would get 200 yards," Mariota said. "I was just like, 'Okay.' But, yeah, that's mostly on me. I should have been running after practice. It's been a while since I've been running like that. It's been a couple months. That's totally on me. I have six months to get back into shape.
"Texas was just taking away the running back. They were just giving me the opportunity to pull it. The guys outside did a great job of blocking outside, allowing me to get as many yards as I could."
Even with Mariota, well into the fourth quarter, the Ducks had only three Matt Wogan field goals to show for their offense.
The defense wasn't threatened much by Texas QB Case McCoy, but running back Malcolm Brown had his moments, including nine carries on a long first-half drive. Mostly, though, the UO defense rose to the occasion.
Oregon led 20-7 at halftime and the game was close only in score.
The Ducks moved quickly up field after the second-half kickoff, but for the third time stalled in the Texas red zone. Mariota's third-down pass from the UT 22 bounced off Keanon Lowe's hands. Wogan booted his third field goal, from 39 yards, as the Ducks moved their lead to 23-7.
Malone's pick-six boosted the Oregon lead to 30-7 with 8:55 left in the game.
The Ducks stopped Texas in the red zone with 3:23 left, and ran out the clock.
Texas had a long drive for points in the first half, but not much else leading one to question at the time, how could they come back against the Ducks?
The poor offense continued with another three-and-out to start the third quarter.
The Texas defense continued to play well, and then came the surprise moment, as athletic freshman Tyrone Swoopes replaced Case McCoy at quarterback. It resulted in another three-and-out.
Oregon then went on another drive Mariota hitting Bralon Addison, Johnny Mundt and Huff on throws but for the fourth time the Ducks also came up short of six points in the red zone. On third down, Mariota faked on a pass attempt, then got pulled down for a sack by Cedric Reed Reed grabbing Mariota's face mask, with no call. Wogan missed on his fourth field-goal attempt, from 31 yards.
Texas again went three-and-out.
The third quarter closed with Oregon showing plenty of offense and defense, but still with only one offensive touchdown and leading 23-7.
Texas got pinned at its 3-yard-line early in the fourth quarter by UO punter Alejandro Maldonado, but moved the ball out of the predicament. But, on a third-and-long play, McCoy, back in the game, got picked off by Malone, who had a nice runback for the touchdown.
McCoy said of Texas' offense and troubles with the passing game: "We just done a couple things wrong. Dropped a couple third-down conversions. They (the Ducks) played a couple right coverages on the third downs. That's basically what happened in the passing game. We were trying to run the ball, control the clock most of the downs, got some third-down situations, had a couple drops, a couple missed cues. Played some bad ball."
Texas coach Brown spoke of his disappointment on a night when his defense played reasonably well.
"Guys played hard," he said. "We couldn't move the ball as well as we needed to. The offensive guys tried. It just didn't work. They did great on defense.
"Kicking game was pretty good. We didn't have problems with it. That's something they've done really well. And defense played really well. Just disappointed as hard as the guys tried with all the distractions, me being one of those distractions, they've done everything right for two weeks. They worked really hard in practice. thought they tried as hard as they could tonight. We played a really good football team."
Mariota came out flying, clearly feeling better after resting and recovering since the Ducks' previous game, Nov. 29 versus Oregon State. He never hesitated carrying the ball, or absorbing contact; in fact, he initiated some contact. He totaled 132 yards on 12 carries in the first half, and he completed 9 of 13 for 130 yards. He accounted for all but 34 yards of UO offense.
But the Ducks' came away with only field goals on two first-half red-zone opportunities, and that kept Texas in the game.
And the Longhorns, although getting some decent yardage from Brown, including a 40-yard run, couldn't muster much else. Brown had 113 yards on 18 first-half carries.
Patterson's 37-yard interception return for a touchdown come on a third-and-18 McCoy pass early in the game.
Patterson said Aliotti was "the first person I thought about when I caught the ball. I wanted to score for him. He's the most special person to me that's ever coached me. I just wanted to do it for him."
The Ducks then forced the first of three three-and-out UT possessions; another UT drive last only four plays.
Mariota sprinted for 4, 12, 11 and 11 yards, but the fourth run came with consequences. He had his helmet pulled off and UO got called for holding and had to miss a play, leaving UO at the Texas 15 with Jeff Lockie at QB. The Ducks got whistled for a false start, keeping Mariota on the sideline. Lockie then got knocked for a six-yard loss
On third-and-24, Mariota ran for 16 yards. Wogan connected on the first of two first-half field goals, from 25 yards, and the score was 10-0.
Led by Brown, the Longhorns marched on an Oregon-beating kind of drive: 16 plays, 79 yards, 7:12 of clock time. McCoy scored on a 1-yard TD plunge, making it 10-7.
The Ducks drove again for points, with Mariota's 18-yard run a highlight, as he took on tacklers. Mariota hit tight end Evan Baylis for 32 yards.
But, after a low throw and incompletion, Mariota got hit for a loss of six yards on a sack by Jackson Jeffcoat. Mariota fumbled, but it was ruled out of bounds.
But, the worse part of the play: Left tackle Tyler Johnstone suffered a knee injury and had to be helped off the field. He later left the sidelines on crutches, done for the game.
Texas stopped UO on a short pass, forcing another Wogan field goal, a 32-yarder that made it 13-7.
With Texas struggling offensively (McCoy 5 of 12, 31 yards), Oregon created some breathing room just before the end of the first half. Mariota ran for 33 yards and passed to De'Anthony Thomas for 16. Later, after a timeout, Mariota tossed a shovel pass to native Texan Josh Huff, who dove into the end zone to complete a 16-yard TD reception. The Ducks led 20-7 at halftime.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
OREGON 10 10 3 7 -- 30
TEXAS 7 0 0 0 -- 7
OREGON -- Avery Patterson 37 interception return (Matt Wogan kick), 13:52
OREGON -- Wogan 25 FG, 8:36
TEXAS -- Case McCoy 1 run (Anthony Fera kick), 1:24
OREGON -- Wogan 32 FG, 12:30
OREGON -- Josh Huff 16 pass from Marcus Mariota (Wogan kick), 0:44
OREGON -- Wogan 39 FG, 13:06
OREGON -- Derrick Malone 38 interception return (Wogan kick), 8:55