Several stories below my press box perch, those 19 and 20 year olds stood in an 11-man group, the responsibility of victory on their shoulders. Forecasted rain showers avoided the Memorial Stadium turf, a shower of noise in its place. The red-clad masses could almost touch consecutive home victory No. 48.
Did the sideline huddle include talk about those 85 yards, patrolled by Nebraska's vaunted Blackshirt defense, that the Horns needed to cover for victory? "You don't really say anything at that point," Horn field general Major Applewhite said. "You know that you have to score and you know you have to get down in field goal range at least to tie the ball game up and we knew as an offense -- I think everybody was thinking on the same brain wave -- if we score a touchdown there's only going to be about two and a half minutes left and then Nebraska is going to have to come back and score a touchdown." Did offensive coordinator Greg Davis have any worries? Nah. "On the sideline, (Major) said, 'Coach, we'll be fine.'" Nothing like a little reassurance from your freshman QB, huh?
Wane McGarity's sideline thoughts? "We need to score." Kwame Cavil? "Let's go 85 yards." Ricky Williams? "We just believed."
Cavil said some of the team's confidence down three in the fourth, on the road, vs. Nebraska, comes from the player's belief in Davis' offense. "We have the best offensive coordinator in the nation," the sophomore wideout said. "We knew he was going to call all the right plays."
The Texas offense runs straight from their sideline huddle to formation. First down at the 15. Williams takes his 27th hand-off (or pitch) of the day outside left end, but can't turn the corner. Three yards. Second and seven. Applewhite hits Kwame on a left to right slant but Cavil can't hold on, setting the Horns in third and long. Third and seven. Texas catches a break as veteran LDE Chad Kelsay charges across the line before the snap. Off sides, defense. After a UT time out, a third and two at the 23. Third and short had been the Horns bane during the first half -- Williams failing to convert up the middle on two third-and-ones. Would it be Ricky back up the middle this time? Doubtful, with UT in a four-wides, single-back set. Indeed, Major drops into the pocket and quickly finds Ryan Nunez for his only reception of the day on a hot right to left slant. Nine yards. "That's where I thought the big play was," Major later said, "because it sustained the momentum. It was like, 'Alright, we're moving the ball. We can do it now'."
First down at the 32. Applewhite, with time, finds McGarity on a deeper left-to-right crossing route. Fourteen yards.
First down at the 46. FB Ricky Brown surges forward half a count too early. False start. First down and 15. Major drops back to pass, but blitzing WLB Eric Johnson sacks the Texas QB for a loss of six. Second and 21. Major again with time, tries to hit McGarity on a deep post, but ROV Mike Brown and another Nebraska defender have the Horns' deep threat blanketed. Third and 21. Texas goes to the shotgun, buying Applewhite a bit of time before he scrambles and searches down field for a target. "I saw Major scrambling and it was just a flat out nine route -- fly pattern," WR Bryan White said. "The DB was looking around, didn't know what to do, and (Major) laid it up. It was a perfect pass and I caught it on the sideline and let the official make the call." In bounds (barely) on the Nebraska sideline for 37.
First down at the NU 28. Back to Williams the Horns go, but Ricky goes nowhere on the pitch left. As defender Mike Brown tried to bring Williams down near the Texas sideline, his hand slid across Ricky's face mask, drawing a flag for what most of us felt would be a 5-yarder for an incidental grab. The official, though, saw it differently, calling a personal foul on Brown and moving the Horns to the Husker 13.
First down and 10. Ricky time. Williams up the middle for four. Second and six. Ricky around left end (where he gained most of his yards on the day) for five more. Third and inches. In a play obviously put into the Texas play book with the arrival of the new staff, Major sneaks behind C Russell Gaskamp and LG Roger Roesler.
First and goal from the three. And again, Ricky. Williams off right tackle for two. Second and goal at the one. But again, the Nebraska DEE stiffens at the goal line. Ricky loses a yard up the middle. Third and goal at the two. Major calls time-out to talk this one over with Davis. The play call -- a quick hitter to Kwame in the flat. "The last thing we told Major was, 'We've got a field goal. Be smart with the ball,'" Davis said. Major takes the snap from under center and immediately rolls -- and rolls and rolls and rolls -- right. Nebraska corner man Ralph Brown takes away the angle to Kwame. Option No. 2. "Wane is running a curl in the back of the end zone and the thing we always tell the second receiver is that with that much reduced field, get to the back and then move," the Texas offensive coordinator said.
"I read Major's eyes," McGarity said. "I just tried to find an open spot." As long as White's 76-yard catch and run seemed, this played seemed longer. First Major's roll out, with NU's RDE Mike Rucker bearing down from behind, then the eternal pass. "It seemed like it was in the air forever," said Wane. "When it came down, I thought there was a defender to my left (Edwin Swiney) and I thought he was gonna get it . . . I dove for it and I guess that's why the line judge didn't know if I made the catch or not because I think he thought the defender knocked it down or I was bobbling it but I felt I had my arms and my body up underneath the ball. I knew it was a TD and I wasn't gonna argue with him (line judge). The back judge gave the TD and he probably had a better look at it. Put it down as a TD catch." Done.
Not your textbook spiral, but there's nothing wrong with improvisation, especially when the ball lands safely in the hands of McGarity.
Davis even had a flash back few Cowboys fans want to remember. "It reminded me of the Dwight Clark catch against the Cowboys where (Joe) Montana just stayed alive, stayed alive, stayed alive . . ." With the catch, the Horns bowl hopes came alive, and the Huskers' incredible 47-game winning streak became a thing of the past. I've got a feeling this drive and touchdown pass-and-catch will be a flashback Orangebloods will gladly recall for a long, long time.