SAN ANTONIO, Texas – After three days off to recharge the batteries and visit with family and friends for the Christmas holiday, the Texas football team returned to the practice field Thursday.
One day after arriving in San Antonio, the Longhorns held their first practice since Sunday morning in Austin and didn't seem to miss a beat.
"It went really well," sophomore linebacker Dalton Santos said of the two-hour workout. "The guys came out focused after the little break we had. I have to say this is one of our better days out of this whole break. I wasn't really too sure how we would handle it after being off for a couple days."
The Longhorns have a tough challenge ahead of them on both sides of the ball.
No. 10/12 Oregon enters the Valero Alamo Bowl (Dec. 30) averaging 573.0 total yards (No. 2 in the FBS) and 46.8 points per game (No. 3 in the FBS). QB Marcus Mariota, a Heisman Trophy hopeful this season, ranks sixth in the nation in passing efficiency (167.9 rating) and ninth in total offense (332.8 ypg). The Ducks are solid defensively as well, surrendering just 21.6 points per game (No. 25 in the nation) and having forced 26 turnovers, the 19th-best total in the country.
"We know that five weeks ago they were up for the National Championship," junior safety Mykkele Thompson said of the Ducks. "We know defensively we have a great challenge ahead of us. They have speed and a lot of talent that we have to match up with."
With just three practices scheduled in San Antonio after more than a week of preparation in Austin, the Longhorns had to return to game-week mode quickly.
"It is just getting back into the film room, understanding what we have ahead of us with Oregon," junior center Dominic Espinosa said. "They are a big opponent, great team so we have to be focused for this team so it is easy for us to flip the switch and come back here to work for this game."
With any bowl game, there are also activities off the field. The team will visit Sea World Friday, while a select group of players will visit The Center for the Intrepid, an Army rehabilitation facility. There is also a luncheon with both teams on Sunday.
"I think everybody is excited about it even though it is our second year doing some of the same things but I have to say, it is going to be a great time going to Sea World and doing a bunch of things as a group," Santos said. "Even though we have done a lot of things this year already as a team this will make us stronger through this week and get us prepared for Monday."
Thompson and Texas will face a high-powered Oregon offensive attack, but Thompson, a San Antonio native, should have a lot of support in the sold-out Alamodome stands.
"It is a good feeling to know you have a big support staff coming back home and playing," Thompson said. "It is really nice coming back and being able to show everyone how much I have grown up."
Playing just 90 minutes from Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium should give the Longhorns an emotional boost.
"It is going to be like playing at home," Santos said. "Having all these fans here is going to be good for us. It is going to be a great atmosphere."