No. 10 Oregon first felt overlooked by the BCS, and then came to the Alamo Bowl overshadowed by Mack Brown’s final game at Texas.
But the Ducks are flying home with an attention-getting blowout.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota had 386 total yards and Oregon returned two interceptions for touchdowns, spoiling Brown’s emotional farewell after 16 seasons at Texas with a runaway 30-7 victory Monday night.
The BCS-snubbed Ducks (11-2) dominated throughout — even though their famously high-powered offense scored just one touchdown and repeatedly settled for field goals. Yet the rout didn’t seem to completely balm the sting of not playing in a BCS bowl for the first time in five years, with Oregon players after the game still reflecting on their championship hopes derailed by November losses.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich declined to answer whether this season was a success.
"That’s for you to decide," Helfrich said. "I don’t think in those terms. I think of how well we can prepare and what’s next."
Brown received warm goodbyes from a sellout crowd in what was practically a home game for Texas (8-5). Even the school marching band spelled his name at halftime.
But the blowout was a final reminder of why Brown is resigning after a rocky and tense season at Texas, which he led to a national championship in 2005 but couldn’t reverse a sharp decline in recent years.
Leaving the field for the last time with Texas, Brown flashed the "Hook `em Horns" hand signal to the scattered remaining Longhorns fans who stuck around to the end of another humbling loss this season. His players didn’t say a word while surrounding Brown and his wife, who walked side by side into the tunnel and toward the locker room.
Brown said he had no regrets about making this his exit.
"I think it’s best for Texas. It’s best for me, it’s best for the players," he said. "We need to win more than eight games. Last year was nine. I really thought we had a chance to win all the games this year. It didn’t work. It’s my job to make that work. I told them tonight, the only regret I had is we didn’t win enough games this year."
Mariota led all rushers with 133 yards on 15 carries. He was 18 of 26 for 253 yards passing in his Heisman Trophy campaign tuneup for 2014, having announced earlier this month that he was coming back for his junior season.
His one touchdown pass was to Josh Huff, who turned a short pass into a spectacular 16-yard sprint to the end zone.
Yet even Mariota was outscored by Oregon’s defense — and so was Texas, for that matter.
Oregon’s first touchdown came on the third play of the game when safety Avery Patterson intercepted an overthrown pass by Texas quarterback Case McCoy and returned it 37 yards to the end zone. McCoy later bookended a dismal performance in his final game with another pick-six, this one returned 38 yards by linebacker Derrick Malone that sent waves of burnt orange-clad fans streaming for the exits.
McCoy scored on a 1-yard rush in the first quarter for Texas’ only touchdown. He finished 8 of 17 for 48 yards and was pulled at times in the second half for freshman Tyrone Swoopes.
Running back Malcolm Brown was the lone offensive constant for Texas, finishing with 130 yards on 26 carries.
"It’s tough not to get a win for him," defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "Miss Sally, she’s like a second mom to us. She takes care of us. Coach Brown loves us "
Far from the uplifting send-off Texas wanted for Brown, the school now shifts its focus to finding a replacement. New Texas athletic director Steve Patterson said before kickoff that he wants a successor by Jan. 15.
Patterson said coaches interested in the job have come forward but wouldn’t discuss potential candidates.
"There’s interest that’s sincere, and there’s interest that’s `Help me find a better contract,’" Patterson said.
Whoever Texas hires shouldn’t expect patience from a fanbase that grew accustomed to winning under Brown, and then became restless as the Longhorns slid from perennial BCS contention. Brown arrived in 1998 and went 128-27 by the end of 2009, when the Longhorns lost to Alabama in its second BCS title game in five years.
He went out, however, 30-21 in his final four seasons.
Texas could do a lot worse than look to Oregon for how to pull off a coaching transition.
Although first-year coach Mark Helfrich couldn’t get the Ducks to a BCS bowl as Chip Kelly did in each of his four seasons, Oregon still finished with a fourth consecutive year of 11 or more victories. This was the Ducks’ third consecutive bowl win.
Playing before New Year’s Day was a disappointing consolation for the Ducks after entering November unbeaten and ranked No. 2. Losing to Stanford dashed their national title hopes, but they’ll be favorites to contend again in 2014 with Mariota back.
"Yeah, it wasn’t the season we hoped for," Huff said. "That month of November was a tough stretch for us but we were able to come together as a team and continue to fight for one another."
Seldom has the Alamo Bowl hosted blowouts like this in recent years. Seven of the previous eight games had been decided by a touchdown or less before heavily favored Oregon ended that run of drama, in front of what was the second-largest crowd in the bowl’s 20-year history.