"You just kind of keep plugging away and you kind of wait for that play that sparks," Ash said. "This game, we started getting them, and we got the momentum back and we started playing well."
Ash's first spark came via his legs. With Texas facing a double-digit deficit and a key third-and-four play, the sophomore quarterback followed a lead block from Johnathan Gray for a five-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, Texas went back to the quarterback draw, with even better results. This time, Ash found a gap up the middle and leapt an Oregon State defender for an 11-yard score.
"David really gained a lot of confidence, especially on the one where he ran it in and jumped over a guy in the end zone," said Texas wide receiver Jaxon Shipley. "You could see it. You could feel it. Everybody was fired up, especially him. From that point on, I felt like he definitely had a feeling that we were going to win the game."
So when Oregon State scored again to take a 27-17 lead into the fourth quarter, Ash continued his upward trend. Ash entered the fourth quarter just 12-of-22 for 95 yards and a touchdown through the air. But in the fourth, Ash's Jekyll emerged from the Hyde. Ash completed 9-of-11 passes for 146 yards in the stanza, including his last seven passes as the Longhorns scored on their final two drives to take the game.
Texas started its second-to-last drive on its own 17. After his first pass was behind Gray, Ash went to work, hitting Mike Davis for 19, Shipley for 14, Davis for 8, Malcolm Brown for 7 and Shipley for 14. After Ash ran for seven on a quarterback draw, and Brown was stopped short for a one-yard loss, Ash shook loose from a sack attempt by Oregon State's Anthony Watkins, rolled to his left and hit Gray on a wheel route for a 15-yard score.
Texas offensive guard Mason Walters said he didn't see the play, quipping that "I had my hands full at the time trying to keep a couple more from getting after him."
"I did catch it on the Jumbotron afterwards," Walters said. "It was impressive and I don't know how he did it.
"It was huge," Walters said. "I've said it all year: college football is really just a game of momentum. And when you have it, you have it. When you don't, it's tough to get back."
And Texas had it. After giving up a big screen pass on second down, the Longhorns closed well, forcing Oregon State into a third-and-11 where quarterback Cody Vaz was chased down by Alex Okafor and Cedric Reed for a sack.
Texas ran the ball on three straight plays to set up a fourth-and-1 that Gray converted with a three-yard run over right tackle, and on the very next play, Ash lobbed the ball to Marquise Goodwin for the game-winning 36-yard touchdown pass.
"When you get those guys that have exceptional speed, they can do things outside of the design of the play so you don't have to be perfect, there's a little bit more margin for error," said Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite.
But the defense still had to make a stand. Oregon State started with the ball at the 25, and with 2:24 remaining, but the Beavers continued to be overwhelmed by a devastating Longhorn pass-rush. On third-and-8, Okafor recorded sack No. 4.5 for the game, a new Alamo Bowl record. And on fourth-and-14, Kendall Thompson pulled down Vaz for the Longhorns' 10th sack of the game.
"It's always great to end the season on a good note," said Okafor, who ended his senior season with 12.5 sacks. "We're going to use this game as a stepping stone, and Coach [Manny] Diaz just talked about that we have to demand more from ourselves. That was kind of the mindset going into this game, and that's what we did."
That mindset was tested after a rough first half. Oregon State led 20-10 at the break, thanks to a combined 151 rushing yards from Beaver running backs Storm Woods and Terron Ward and receivers Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks. In total, the Beavers had 228 yards at halftime and all the momentum.
"To me, it was whether they wanted to fight their way out of it or sort of accept their fate," Diaz said. "I'm so proud of the way that they fought, the way that they battled in the second half."
While the defense held the Beavers to 69 total yards and seven points in the second half, Applewhite stepped up the tempo, leading to a gassed Oregon State defense down the stretch.
"We probably were on the field too much …," said Oregon State coach Mike Riley. "We didn't sustain enough, didn't get enough first downs to give our defense a chance."
"The first half, we felt like we played great sound football," Woods added. "And the second half felt like Texas just made some adjustments and they came out and they just … I guess they wanted it more or something."
Applewhite certainly faced his fair share of challenges. First, he had just two weeks to prepare a game-plan after previous offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin left for Arkansas State. Second, he faced an Oregon State defense that excelled at stopping the one thing Texas likes to establish, running between the tackles.
Oh, and then there was the fact that Applewhite found out on Friday that he'd be without his backup quarterback, Case McCoy, for the game. McCoy was suspended for violating team rules.
"I'd like to forget that," Applewhite said of facing a difficult backup situation. "I spent about two hours with (true freshman) Jalen Overstreet in Conference Ballroom 15 trying to get ready for the game, and it was a little nerve-wracking."
Of course, Overstreet wasn't needed, and Applewhite's cause was helped by a huge effort from Goodwin, named the Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP. Goodwin finished with five touches for 132 yards and two touchdowns, and he had three explosive plays, a 26-yard gain off a short slant pass and touchdowns on a reception of 36 yards and a run of 64 yards on a reverse.
Okafor was named the Alamo Bowl's Defensive MVP after an eight-tackle, five tackle-for-loss, 4.5-sack effort.
Texas and Oregon State finished with identical 9-4 records. The Longhorns finished one game above last year's 8-5 performance.
"We challenged all of our players to make sure that our seniors left happy and had a happy dressing room," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "And that's happening in there tonight."
Walters said the victory set the Longhorns up with much-needed momentum heading into the offseason.
"That's big. We experienced it last year and obviously … if you look at it at the end of the year, and we judge wins and losses, we've improved from where we were last year.
"However, this is not where we want to end up," Walters said. "This isn't going to be good enough. I wouldn't accept 9-4 next year. I wouldn't take that deal right now. We're just going to have to ride it. I know I've already talked to a lot of guys that are going to be on the team next year, we're excited to get back to work and get back together with everybody and get back on the grind."
Oregon State — Trevor Romaine 29 FG, 9:12 1Q
TEXAS — Nick Jordan 40 FG, 6:46 1Q
Oregon State — Storm Woods 12 run (Romaine kick), 1:33 1Q
TEXAS — Marquise Goodwin 64 run (Jordan kick), 14:40 2Q
Oregon State — Romaine 37 FG, 9:20 2Q
Oregon State — Terron Ward 9 run (Romaine kick), 3:46 2Q
TEXAS — David Ash 12 run (Jordan kick), 5:17 3Q
Oregon State — Woods 2 run (Romaine kick), 0:09 3Q
TEXAS — Johnathan Gray 15 pass from David Ash (Jordan kick), 8:18 4Q
TEXAS — Goodwin 36 pass from Ash (Jordan kick), 2:24 4Q