Texas Football: Longhorns' Top 5 Plays from the 2012 Season

Zach Shelton@@zachisagingerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

Texas Football: Longhorns' Top 5 Plays from the 2012 Season

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    The Texas Longhorns' season has come to close following a 31-27 win in the Alamo Bowl, giving the 'Horns a respectable 9-4 record on the year. Now it is time to look at some of the plays that made those nine wins possible, as well as some that almost pushed that number higher.

    The 'Horns certainly had their maddening moments this season, most notably playing their way out of BCS contention in the final two weeks of the regular season. But with its plethora of top-flight athletes, Mack Brown's squad had no shortage of amazing plays.

    He gave fans a glimpse of what this team could have been had it reached top form.

    Based on their impact on the outcome of the game and their sheer improbability, here are the five best plays from the Longhorns' 2012 campaign.

No. 5: The Darrell Royal Tribute

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    It may not have been the game-changer the rest of these plays were, but Texas' tribute to late coach Darrell Royal was one of the greatest plays of the season.

    Just ask anyone who saw it.

    Only days before a home matchup with the Iowa State Cyclones, legendary Texas coach and namesake for the Longhorns' stadium passed away at the age of 88. Royal is the school's winningest coach and brought Texas its first three national championships.

    So, to pay homage to his mentor, head coach Mack Brown decided that Texas' first offensive play would be out of Royal's trademark Wishbone formation.

    The 'Horns got the ball at their own 6-yard line following an Iowa State punt, a spot that was not very conducive to Royal's brainchild. But Brown was not discouraged telling co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, "Heck run it. What the heck - he's watching." 

    Harsin obliged, but with a twist. Quarterback David Ash handed the ball to wideout Jaxon Shipley on an end around, which Shipley then threw back to his quarterback. Ash then unloaded a 47-yarder to tight end Greg Daniels on the left sideline.

    The 'Horns would proceed to rack up 609 yards of offense in the win, the most since 2005.

    Though the play occurred in a not-so-memorable beatdown, it will never be forgotten as one of the classiest moves of Mack Brown's tenure at the University of Texas.

No. 4: McCoy to Shipley on 4th-and-6

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    Three years after the first edition of this partnership parted for the NFL, it was a McCoy-Shipley connection that led Texas to victory and saved its season from taking an embarrassing turn.

    It was a game in which the Texas could flex its muscles in a blowout after a three-game gauntlet against West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor. Instead the Kansas game was almost Texas' worst loss of the season as David Ash's carelessness with the ball forced the 'Horns to go with backup Case McCoy.

    Down 17-14, McCoy had already led the Longhorns to a touchdown on the previous drive and would need to go 70 yards in just over two minutes. After missing on his first two throws and getting only four yards on third down, McCoy was faced with a 4th-and-6 that meant the game.

    McCoy dropped back, stood strong in the pocket and delivered a strike down the middle of the field to the sure-handed Jaxon Shipley. The play generated 18 yards and, following a 39-yard bomb to Mike Davis, led to a 1-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Grant for the win.

    The win was the second of four consecutive by the 'Horns that put them back in play for a berth in a BCS bowl.

No. 3: Ash to Grant on 4th-and-6

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    The top three begins with another big 4th-and-6 conversion, this one from first-string quarterback David Ash to his seldom-used tight end D.J. Grant. 

    After breezing through its non-conference schedule, the 'Horns had to travel up to Stillwater, one of college football's toughest environments, to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The entire contest was a back-and-forth affair with neither offense slowing down and neither defense able to come up with stops.

    The score was 36-34 in favor of the Cowboys after the Texas defense forced a field goal, and Ash got the ball with just over two minutes to play. After two plays for no gain and a short completion to Jeremy Hills, the 'Horns were facing a dire 4th-and-6 situation deep in their own territory.

    On the play Ash dropped back and found D.J. Grant in the middle of the field, who was then able to turn upfield for a 29-yard gain. Two plays later, Ash found Mike Davis deep for 29 yards to the OSU 5-yard line. Joe Bergeron capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge and the 'Horns were able to hold on for the victory.

    The play not only signified that Ash could compete against Big 12 competition, but that he had the savvy to lead a game-winning drive. Despite his off-and-on play for the rest of the season, this was a major step in Ash's development that he was able to build off of as the season progressed. 

No. 2: Alex Okafor with the Fourth-Quarter Strip-Sack

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    In one of the most dominant performances of his career, Alex Okafor forced a Geno Smith fumble late in the fourth quarter that put his team in position to take the lead against West Virginia.

    The defense was not able to stop a nosebleed against the Mountaineers, giving up 460 total yards and 207 rushing yards to a backup running back. This was of no fault of the senior Okafor, who had already stripped the Heisman-candidate Smith to give the Texas defense its second touchdown of the season.

    But Okafor was not done yet.

    After Texas turned the ball over on downs in their own territory down 41-38, Okafor burst into the backfield to strip Smith. Defensive tackle Chris Whaley recovered at the Texas 12, and the 'Horns were primed to take a four-point lead over the Mountaineers with just over five minutes to play.

    The offense failed to put up points, dooming the 'Horns to a 48-45 loss. But when the defense needed a play and the offense needed points, Okafor gift-wrapped an opportunity to take a late lead at home in a performance that was second only to his showing in the Alamo Bowl.

No. 1: Marquise Goodwin's 36-Yard Game-Winning Touchdown Reception

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    In the perfect goodbye to his Texas football career, senior slot receiver Marquise Goodwin had the game of his life, with his 36-yard touchdown giving his team the comeback victory.

    In his final season in the burnt orange, the speed demon Goodwin only touched the ball 34 times on offense. Then, on his first touch of the Alamo Bowl, Goodwin took an end around 64 yards to the house to ignite a Texas offense that had yet to pick up a first down on its own steam. 

    But he was not done.

    After the 'Horns battled back from a 10-point halftime deficit to cut the score to 27-24, freshman Johnathan Gray converted a 4th-and-1 to firmly place the momentum in Texas' hands. On the very next play, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite decided to take his shot, letting Goodwin outrun his man to the end zone to grab the game-winning pass from David Ash.

    The play, and Goodwin's effort in general, gave Texas' offense the extra boost it had lacked for much of its season as well as the win. The play allowed the Longhorns to end their season on a positive note for the second year in a row, giving them momentum heading into a crucial recruiting season.