Culpepper's Commentary: Nebraska Game

If you were watching this one on television, it is difficult to really know the effect of the wind, the cold, the rain and the snow in Lincoln. And, make no mistake, the Longhorns' failure to score touchdowns and two missed field goals, whatever the reason, greatly aided Nebraska's ability to make a comeback.

I said last week Texas would win 28-24, coming from behind in the fourth quarter, but I never thought it would be because of mistakes from the Horns' field goal kicker and a repeat of a play action bomb.

Let's examine Nebraska's go-ahead score which put the Longhorns behind by a single point with 4:54 left before the parties could start in the sports bars which circle Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

The Cornhuskers align in an I formation with tight end and flanker to the right. They start the pitch sweep and the Longhorns, including cornerback Aaron Ross and safety Michael Griffin, don't back pedal but come flying toward the line of scrimmage. Before you can say "watch out," Nebraska tailback Marlon Lucky stops and floats a pass 25 yards into the end zone to a wide open -- and I mean nobody-within-20-yards wide open -- receiver Nate Swift and it's suddenly 20-19 Nebraska.

From that 4 minutes, 54 seconds on, the Horns have a biting 20-mile-per-hour wind in their face, snow flurries streaking down in haphazard fashion and 85,187 red-coated Cornhusker fans yelling against them at the top of their voices.

At best, Texas would have one possession with one big play to get in position to kick a field goal, I thought before the Husker kickoff.

The Nebraska fans, many wearing corn-shaped headgear, were at their loudest as the Longhorns tried to find that one big play. "Blood before sharks" would best describe the Nebraska crowd at that time and I say it with respect, for their defense responded with inspired play, forcing Texas to punt with just under four minutes to play.

Now understand the coaching decisions involved here. It was a big one and it's Mack Brown at his best. Since he doesn't call plays like Mike Leach or Bill Callahan, he can stay the ship when the storm rolls in. Trusting the Longhorn defense against the run (which Nebraska would most surely do) and with two timeouts left, Mack Brown punts and prays he has chosen wisely. Darrell Royal would be proud.

Then, after two Husker offensive plays, on third-and-three from this 36-yardline and only 2:23 to play, Bill Callahan ignores the fact that he has a 20-mile-per-hour wind at his back and could certainly pin the Longhorns deep with a punt as well as run 25 more seconds off the clock. The point is, with the odds in his favor Callahan did not give his defense a chance to win this game.

He instead called for a flat pass to wide receive Terrence Nunn who stretched to make the first down but got cut into by Texas cornerback Aaron Ross. The football tumbled free and was recovered by the Horns' Marcus Griffin at the Nebraska 44-yardline.

Colt McCoy didn't flinch from the assignment, completing two passes to Quan Cosby for a first down at the 22. But this game is over if Kasey Studdard doesn't hustle downfield to get a block on Cosby's second catch where he was stripped loose of the football. The Texas left guard saved a season by his attitude and sheer effort in recovering the fumble.

Then, runs by Selvin Young and McCoy took the Horns inside the 10 before another scare. McCoy attempted a third down fade pass route to Limas Sweed, but the Longhorn wideout was double covered and McCoy should have thrown the ball away. It was ever so close to being a deflected interception. Although I didn't agree with the call, it was Colt's job to see the coverage, know the desperate situation and throw the sucker away.

As for Ryan Bailey's 22-yard winning field goal -- against the wind, into an end zone of Nebraska fans imitating Duke's Cameron Crazies on opponent's free throws, and from the right hash mark where Greg Johnson had missed two attempts -- was, simply put, the difference between a 7-1, 4-0 Texas football team and a 6-2, 3-1 record.

It will get not one bit easier in Lubbock. This one could go into overtime! I call it Texas 28, Tech 21.

Pat Culpepper played for The University from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

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