SAN ANTONIO — David Ash made the Alamodome his own personal backyard. Whether it was hurdling an Oregon State safety at the goal line, shaking off a potential sack to throw an off-balance touchdown or his go-ahead 36-yard lofting score to Marquise Goodwin, Texas’ sophomore quarterback was just a kid playing in his backyard.
“Whenever you just start playing ball, you’re not thinking about anything else (other) than just playing ball, reacting and having fun out there, and I was just trying to do my job,” Ash said.
The former Belton star rallied the Longhorns with three second-half scores, including spearheading back-to-back fourth-quarter touchdown drives to send Texas to a 31-27 come-from-behind victory Saturday in the 35th annual Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome.
After a lackluster first half, Ash nailed his final seven consecutive passes for 113 yards and both his touchdowns, capping his night with a lofting 36-yard, go-ahead score to senior speedster Goodwin with 2:24 left.
While his quarterback was finding his groove with a new, up-tempo attack, Texas senior defensive end Alex Okafor racked up an Alamo Bowl-record 4½ sacks on eight tackles, as the Longhorns defense feasted on Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz for 10 sacks.
“It’s almost too good to be true,” Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said of Okafor’s night. “In some sense he deserved the success he had tonight.”
While Okafor and the Longhorns (9-4) defense kept the Beavers (9-4) on their heels most of the evening, it wasn’t until midway through the third quarter that the Texas offense found a rhythm.
Trailing 20-10 coming out of halftime, in which the Texas offense combined for just 123 yards, Ash was 14-of-20 passing for 188 yards in the second half and finished 21-of-33 for 241. Ash also added 22 rushing yards, 11 on a up-the-middle touchdown in which he hurdled a Beavers safety at the end zone to pull within 20-17 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
“You kind of wait for the play that sparks, and this game we were getting them, and we started playing well,” Ash said. “That’s what it takes, it takes every guy on that bench believing you can get the job done.”
It was then, coming back to the huddle after beating his chest emphatically, that his Longhorn teammates felt a change in Ash’s demeanor.
“It was probably after the touchdown (run), when he came back into the huddle and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a taste of this now, let’s go after this,’” said Texas senior offensive tackle Mason Walters. “He’s always been good late in games, as I think the whole team has been this year just being able to finish games out.”
After failing to get a single first down through the entire first quarter, Texas moved the chains via an offsides penalty following what appeared to be a fifth straight three-and-out to start the game and Goodwin sprinted 64 yards on a reverse down the Texas sideline for a touchdown 20 seconds into the second quarter.
“I saw Ash in front of me and by that time it parted like the Red Sea and I just ran through it,” Goodwin said.
Said Ash: “You just have to keep plugging away.”