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Texas Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

Zach SheltonFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2013

Texas Football: 5 Best Moments of 2013

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    Jackson Jeffcoat (left) was one of the bright spots for the Longhorns in 2013.
    Jackson Jeffcoat (left) was one of the bright spots for the Longhorns in 2013.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    The Texas Longhorns' 2013 season will come to an end on Monday in the Alamo Bowl. No matter how it ends against Oregon, there were plenty of moments where Texas looked like the program we thought it would be.

    While losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor will define this year's 'Horns, they do not lessen the excitement that came with steamrolling Oklahoma and Texas Tech. 

    There was Jackson Jeffcoat's transcendent senior year, and Johnathan Gray's pre-injury breakout. Even fullback Alex de la Torre gave this team a jolt this season

    Here is the best of Texas' 2013 campaign.

No. 5: Greg Robinson Replaces Manny Diaz

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    Appointing Greg Robinson to defensive coordinator gave Texas hope in the Big 12.
    Appointing Greg Robinson to defensive coordinator gave Texas hope in the Big 12.Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    It was clear Texas needed a change when it allowed a program-worst 550 rushing yards to the BYU Cougars. The decision to replace defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with analyst Greg Robinson changed the course of the season.

    Whether you want to commend him for coaching up three All-Big 12 players, saving Steve Edmond's career or turning Cedric Reed into a bona fide stud, Robinson did a great job in 2013. That's not even mentioning the monster he created in All-American defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

    Following his appointment, Robinson held all but two Big 12 opponents (Oklahoma State and Baylor) under four yards per carry. He solved the Oklahoma puzzle, holding the Sooners offense to just 13 points, and engineered a nine-sack night against Texas Tech.

    Robinson will likely follow Mack Brown out the door after the Alamo Bowl, but his appointment kept Texas' 2013 campaign from coming completely off the rails.

No. 4: Johnathan Gray Torches Kansas State

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    The Wildcats were no match for Johnathan Gray's speed and elusiveness.
    The Wildcats were no match for Johnathan Gray's speed and elusiveness.Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

    After losing David Ash to another head injury, the Longhorns needed Johnathan Gray to take over their conference-opener against Kansas State. And that's exactly what their sophomore tailback did.

    Gray opened the second half with a nifty 15-yard touchdown, his second of the night, and finished with a career-best 141 yards on 28 carries. His effort allowed Texas to snap a two-game losing streak on the season, as well as a five-game skid to the Wildcats.

    Before succumbing to an Achilles injury, Gray was the third-leading rusher in the Big 12, with this game serving as his breakout performance. He is due for a major comeback in 2014.

No. 3: The Comeback over West Virginia

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    Alex de la Torre surprised everyone with his game-winning touchdown catch against West Virginia.
    Alex de la Torre surprised everyone with his game-winning touchdown catch against West Virginia.Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Staring down a pivotal matchup with Oklahoma State, Texas needed to clear West Virginia on the road. It took all the Longhorns had to pull it off. 

    Things looked downright bleak for the Longhorns in the second half. Down 10, they had already lost both leading rusher Johnathan Gray and star defensive tackle Chris Whaley to injury. Even after battling back, the 'Horns were facing 4th-and-7 with their season on the line. 

    Then Case McCoy, as only he could, was able to find trusty wideout Jaxon Shipley for a nine-yard gain. The conversion set up Anthony Fera's game-tying field goal that sent the game to overtime.

    From there, things only got more wild. Facing third down at the 2, McCoy dumped the ball off to seldom-used fullback Alex de la Torre for the first touchdown of his career. The Mountaineers had a chance to answer and force another extra frame, but Steve Edmond intercepted Paul Millard's pass to seal the win.

    Winning the Big 12 with the erratic McCoy under center was always a long shot. But on this night, he made the Longhorn faithful believe it was his destiny.

No. 2: Jackson Jeffcoat on Senior Night

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    Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (right) was a revelation on senior night.
    Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (right) was a revelation on senior night.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Following a 38-13 home loss to Oklahoma State, the Longhorns needed a strong Thanksgiving performance against Texas Tech. Jackson Jeffcoat answered the call with a career-best performance.

    On senior night, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson turned Jeffcoat loose in the "Spinner" role of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. The senior lined up at every spot along the defensive front seven and was unblockable en route to three sacks and 10 total tackles.

    The performance paved the way for Jeffcoat to earn distinction as the Big 12's co-Defensive Player of the Year, as well as earning the Hendricks Award as the nation's top defensive end. He was also recognized as a first-team All-American by the Associated Press.

    In short, Jeffcoat's final home game was one of the best defensive efforts of the season for any player in the nation.

No. 1: Defeating Oklahoma

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    Chris Whaley's interception return against Oklahoma will go down as the play of the season.
    Chris Whaley's interception return against Oklahoma will go down as the play of the season.Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    This entire list could be made up of the highlights from Texas' 36-20 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. For the sake of variety, we're counting the best win of the Longhorns' season as one moment.

    After losing the previous two Red River Rivalries by a combined 80 points, the 'Horns looked doomed against the No. 12 Sooners. They had barely escaped with a 31-30 win over Iowa State the previous week and gave no indication that they could stop Oklahoma's rushing attack.

    Instead, Mack Brown's team turned in its most complete performance of the season. Defensive tackle Chris Whaley got it started with the play of the year on a 31-yard interception return, giving his team a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter.

    Then the rout was on thanks to long touchdown catches by Marcus Johnson and Mike Davis, with an 85-yard punt return by Daje Johnson sandwiched in between. The defense did its part with four sacks, while Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown combined for 243 punishing yards on the ground.

    The win gave new hope to Texas' season, sparking a six-game winning streak that kept it in Big 12 contention right up until the year's end.

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