I had to scratch my eyes more than a few times during this game as I saw more blitzing by the Husker defense and more stacking the box in one game than I think I saw in all games before this..combined.
Don't believe me? Ask the Texas Head Coach. "They came in by releasing pressure on their players they blitzed every play," Mack Brown said. "I don't think I have ever seen anybody blitz that much. That is absolutely unbelievable."
It was funny, but I remember participating on a radio show earlier in the week, where we all basically implored Defensive Cosgrove to just go for broke, go in man-coverage and try and get at least some pressure on the QB.
Consider me surprised when that's exactly what we saw and Brown wasn't the only one surprised. "It took us a whole half to figure out what was going to work. I've never been in a game where they're going to blitz every play," sophomore QB Colt McCoy said.
The stats only show one sack and nine hurries for the reinvigorated blackshirt defense, but that hardly told the tale of what the sophomore QB for the Horns had to endure. If he wasn't sacked, he was hurried. If he wasn't hurried, he was knocked down not long after getting rid of the ball. This kid was beat up, down and in just about every way imaginable.
McCoy was even knocked out of the game for a play, but this kid is known for his heart and his chin, which he illustrated as he came in the next play. Instead of Mack Brown calling a dump off or something conservative and safe for the shaken QB, it was completely the other way, McCoy on a designed keeper, which went big yards and a first down. "I give Colt McCoy credit after coming out of the game, he came right back in and make a big run," Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan said. "He has a lot of guts and courage. He came right back in and played well."
That was kind of the story of this game, though, for both teams, Texas and Nebraska both trying to hammer it at each other and neither wanting to give an inch. And for three quarters, it was actually the Huskers making the Horns give it, whether they liked it or not.
"You can go back and look at my interviews from Monday, and I said they are going to come in here and play as hard as they can and they are going to play better than they have all season," defensive tackle Derek Lokey said of the Huskers. "And that's what they did; they came in here and gave us their best shot. Luckily, we were able to finish in the end and got it done. But we fully expected for them to come in here and play their hardest and they did it."
A third of the way into the third quarter, Nebraska was actually up, 17-3. And even into the fourth, the Horns had gotten nothing but field goals and trailed Nebraska , 17-9. The blitz had worked like a charm, stacking the box was working to a tee and the Husker offense was seemingly grinding it down Texas ' throat with more and more success.
Stop the film right there. I want you to put it on pause.
Here's the moment where Husker fans were cheering. I went to the message boards and one poster remarked after Nebraska had taken the momentum and the defense had played so well: "I wonder if Nebraska should be ranked after this."
The Husker team, 21-point dogs to the Horns going in, had basically beaten and beaten up the Horns for over three quarters of this game. It was a victory without even being one technically, because instead of fold like a wet blanket, this team showed up, played to the hilt and against a far more talented team, pushed them and were even beating them in this game.
After the game, though, the same poster said of Nebraska that it "I can't believe I root for one of the worst teams in history."
Fickle is one thing, but that's borderline schizophrenia
Back to the game, though, as you know full well, it became the Jamal Charles Show, the slight-but-speedy running back torching a tired, but still blitzing blackshirt "D."
Here's what the next three scoring drives looked like for the Horns:
12:23 UT - Charles, Jamaal 25 yd run (McCoy, Colt pass failed), 4-74
0:50, NU 17 - UT 15
07:33 UT - Charles, Jamaal 86 yd run (McCoy, Colt rush failed), 3-98 1:19, NU 17 - UT 21
03:34 UT - Charles, Jamaal 40 yd run (Bailey, Ryan kick), 6-57 2:35, NU 17 - UT 28
If that wasn't bad enough, Keller went down in agony, suffering a shoulder injury, junior Joe Ganz coming in for Keller with just about two minutes left to go in the game.
Give credit to Ganz, because he came in on a third and long situation, and even after having missed his first pass into the end zone, Ganz came back on fourth down and hit Maurice Purify with a perfect fade.
It was obviously not enough, the on-side kick failing, but Ganz' 2-for-3 passing performance and the score, along with his lone rush, which went for 12 yards, was enough for one "fan" to post this:
"Sam who? Go Ganz!"
The Huskers gave up 364 yards rushing, over 200 of it in the fourth quarter, keeping them near the bottom of the NCAA in yards given up on the ground, per game. And the Husker defense once again gave up over 500 yards in offense (545), the third time they have done that in the last four games.
Oh, and they lost.
That's what will be remembered, and the entirety of the game will be lost, because of the colossal fourth quarter collapse. And maybe it's what they are supposed to say. Maybe it's just the thing you utter after a game you barely won. But it was almost unanimous when Texas players and coaches were commenting about the game:
"You've got to give them credit for what they did against us," Colt McCoy said
" Nebraska is a team that is a smash mouth football team and no matter what their record is we knew they had talent. We knew they were still Nebraska ," Defensive End Brian Orakpo said.
"It was a hard fought battle today. You have to give Nebraska credit, they played great football today," Offensive Line Chris Hall said.
"Give credit to Nebraska , they did a lot of good things," Offensive Tackle Tony Hills said.
"It was a hard fought ball game throughout the whole game. You have to give credit to Nebraska , they did give us their best shot. The time just ran out. It was a close one, but it was a good one, though," Safety Marcus Griffin said.
"Give Nebraska tremendous amount of credit for all the criticism they have been under the last three weeks to come in here and play as well and as they hard as they did," Head Coach Mack Brown said.
Well, whether they meant it or it was just lip-service, it would seem anyway, that Texas actually thought they were in a game. And judging by the fact that I watched it, I'd have to agree.
It didn't work out, and what everyone is dwelling on now is that Nebraska just lost their fourth straight game for the first time since 1961. Some are even relishing this as they think this is the nail in Bill Callahan and company's proverbial coaching-coffin in Lincoln .
What might get lost or based on immediate perception, has almost been completely ignored, is that a group of players who should have never had to endure fans actually going up behind their bench during game, telling them they suck and don't deserve to wear the "N", went out and played their guts out. If there was a single player who had a thing left in their tank, they probably didn't even make the trip.
We have all screamed about the lack of emotion, speculated that this team was lost and they were already giving in. Against Texas , they did anything but. Yeah, they wore down and yes, the do or die blitzing which kept them in the game for three quarters, didn't exactly pan out in the fourth.
Criticize the coaches if you have to. They make six figures and more, are big boys and by this point in their careers, their skin is as thick as can be. But the players did everything they could and didn't win the game, and oh yeah, it was a ranked team, a top 20 team, a team which is supposed to be infinitely more talented than Nebraska could ever hoped to be and it was on the road.
Nobody wants to see these kids lose, especially after what they have had to endure the last three weeks.
They left it all out on the field, though and I think that there shouldn't be anyone who can possibly question that.
If we can all agree that they did give what they had, and tried as hard as they could, and it still ended in a loss – welcome to sports, that's how it goes.
I'd rather watch a game like this than the ones we have seen the last three weeks.