Culpepper's Commentary: Nebraska Game

Competition is a wonderful thing. Take Jamaal Charles, who one week ago became one of the three running backs used by the Longhorns against Baylor. It was plain to see Chris Ogbonnaya and Vondrell McGee would be in the mix. Of the three, who would step up?

We got the answer Saturday in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps coach Ken Rucker had whispered those magic words in Jamaal's ear: "You run tough or it's Chris' and Vondrell's turn."

At the end of three quarters at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium the score stood Nebraska 17, Texas 9. The end zone for Texas might as well have been in San Antonio to the south and Dallas to the north, or so it looked for Longhorn fans.

Colt McCoy had been getting hit and was confused by the Cornhusker defense. Nebraska would change from a two-deep zone look to man-to-man and a full blitz alignment after McCoy finished his signaling gyrations to his receivers. Texas couldn't block Nebraska's blitz, pure and simple, but high up in the press box the Longhorn brain trust continued to try to move the ball through the air.

Earlier, coming out from the south end zone, Texas had put Derek Lokey at fullback and from the I-tailback spot Jamaal Charles had in fact made a first down running on three tries. But that was too "physical" so Texas went back to touch pass and soon had to punt.

For most of the contest, Texas was still trying to impress the ABC audience that throwing short passes was the way to win football game.

Through those first three quarters of play on a perfect football afternoon, Charles had run for 74 yards. In his own words, "My mind-set was to protect the football and run downhill as hard as I could… instead of running sideways when I saw a hole."

Even offensive coordinator Greg Davis apparently noticed the sideways, one-yard runs by the Texas offense weren't productive and made mention of it in his midweek press conference.

Something had to give, but it wasn't until late in the game against a blitzing Cornhusker defense that Texas really gave the run a chance.

Now mind you this was a football team that had been gutted at home two weeks in a row by teams – Oklahoma State and Texas A&M – that ran the football and a football team whose coach was so out of contact with the real world that he thought Limas Sweed was still playing at Texas!

What happened in the fourth quarter was a result of Colt McCoy getting hammered by two Nebraska defenders and some inspired defensive play by Texas against a Cornhusker offense that thought their eight-point lead was enough.

I saw the McCoy play happen right in front of my fourth row seat on the east side of the stadium. McCoy rolled to his right and for some strange reason Nate Jones was involved in protecting Colt. Two Cornhuskers in hot pursuit got by Jones without being touched and ran through the Texas quarterback just as he let go of the football. McCoy then lay flat on his back with Texas trainers hovering over him.

In came John Chiles with 13:05 left to play. Of course Texas ran the zone read and Nebraska suddenly looks like the team everyone thought they were as Charles popped a seam for 25 yards.

Greg Davis smelled blood from the press box – give him credit, he is a survivor – and the Big Red saw another side of the Longhorns. That mean, nasty side where big Texas linemen block and Longhorn backs run for the goal line.

After Chiles' one play, Colt came back on the field and kept on the zone play inside behind a Tony Hills block on Nebraska's defensive end for 24 yards. On the third play Charles broke through another crack and sprinted for a 25-yard touchdown.

The ball game turned on those four plays combined with outstanding effort by wideout Quan Cosby, who had five catches for 113 yards, and some enthusiastic but erratic play by the Texas defense.

In the first half, only safety Ishie Oduegwu made an impression on the Cornhuskers. He made two excellent tackles that jarred ball carriers and got roars from the Texas crowd. Nebraska had Texas defenders on their heels through much of the first half and on the first drive after the break, though, with cut-back running, sweeps and passes to the tight end across the middle against the Texas two-deep zone.

Lokey, Roy Miller and Brian Orakpo caught my eye when Nebraska had the lead and was trying to hold the ball.

Then Frank Okam stripped the ball from the Nebraska quarterback with the Huskers on the Texas 29-yard line with 6:09 left in the game, which was a huge defensive play.

Also credit Ryan Bailey's 47- and 49-yard field goals in the third quarter for giving any hope of victory to Texas.

It will take some fancy talking to keep Sergio Kindle and Jared Norton off the field from here forward. The reasoning that Robert Killebrew and Rashad Bobino were part of a national championship should pale side-by-side with their play versus Kansas State (twice) and Texas A&M last year, among others. Kindle and Norton make plays as linebackers like nobody else but Derrick Johnson since Mack Brown has been the Texas coach.

Since coach Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State delivered his "I'm a 40-year old man" tirade after the Texas Tech game, you can't get tickets to Cowboy home games, nor motel rooms in the area. They are a team on fire with the goal of winning the Big 12 South division. I plan to be there. This game could go to OT. I call it Oklahoma State 28, Texas 24.

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 InsideTexas.com.


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