Nebraska scored on a Josh Brown 48-yard field goal on its opening possession. Texas would take over on its own 20, with Simms in the shotgun for the first time in his collegiate career. (The last time Texas went the way of the Gun was in the 2000 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas). But a 7-yard QB sack and a false start penalty put an end to the five-play drive.
Jammal Lord would dash for 24 yards on Nebraskas next possession, equally dashing any hope Texas had of taking the crowd out of the game early. That is, until Reed Boyds huge defensive stop against Dahrran Diedrick on fourth-and-1 at the Texas 17.
Facing third-and three from its own 24, Texas third drive of the night came up empty after TE Brock Edwards was hit in the back before Chris Simms pass arrived (no call from the officials).
But following P Brian Bradfords 41-yard boot, the Texas defense would force a three-and-out.
Thats when Roy Williams served notice he is feeling better than at any time since suffering a hamstring injury against Houston. Williams had three vintage grabs on the nine play drive, including a 26-yard reception over the middle.
"Nebraska was giving up the outs," the junior wideout said. "They would play bump-and-run once in a while, but the majority of the time they would line up about six or seven yards off the ball. We just took advantage or it."
The 66-yard drive resulted in a 26-yard Dusty Mangum field goal to knot the score at three to end the first quarter.
Defensive coordinator Carl Reeses bunch would produce the first turnover of the game on Nebraskas next possession early in the second quarter. On a zone blitz, LDE Cory Redding tipped Lords pass which Nathan Vasher picked off near midfield. Texas turned the gift into a 41-yard Mangum FG, capping an 8-play, 24-yard drive with 13:22 remaining until halftime.
With Texas leading 6-3, the defense would force another three-and-out but DT Marcus Tubbs was injured on the series and replaced by sophomore DT Stevie Lee.
On UT's next possession, Mangum just missed on a 45-yard FG attempt.
But then Lord got righteous with the football. Starting from the Husker 28, Lord carried for 12 yards on an option keeper and then added 22 more on a quarterback keeper isolation play against the cornerback. With 6:33 remaining, Nebraska faced 4th-and-1 at the Texas 29. SS Michael Huff crashed the line and stopped Lord for no gain on a quarterback keeper.
The Huskers would try a 48-yard FG on their next possession, but this time another Texas safety produced the pivotal play. FS Dakarai Pearson would thwart the attempt after a high snap from center gave him just enough of a split-second opportunity to penetrate the line and end the series.
Texas took over on its 37 with 62 ticks left in the half. But two incompletions and all of 20 seconds later, Josh Bullocks picked off a Simms pass and returned it to the Texas 46. Lord threw incomplete facing third-and-1 at the Longhorn 32 with 13 seconds remaining. The Huskers lined up for a game-tying 49-yard FG attempt but for the second time in as many possessions, special teams came up big. This time CB Rod Babers blocked Browns attempt and Texas maintained its 6-3 leading heading into the locker rooms.
Although the first half was the defensive standoff that most predicted, the second half began with both teams scoring on 79-yard touchdown drives.
The Huskers got on the scoreboard first when Lord found TE Jon Bowling all by his lonesome in the end zone for a two-yard scoring toss on play action. The seven-play drive was highlighted by Lords 54-yard run from a four-wide set to the Texas 4-yard line. Babers hauled him down while DE Kalen Thornton was injured on the play.
Nebraska led for the first time, 10-6, with 12:03 remaining in the third.
Texas 79-yard scoring drive got off to an inauspicious beginning, following a five-yard false start penalty and Cedric Bensons two-yard loss. But then Williams and Williams went to work. Simms found Roy on a 17-yard completion while Ivan, running like an unmanned dump truck on a downhill slope, grabbed a short pass out of the backfield and tightroped the sidelines en route to a 48-yard gain.
Two plays later, Simms would find Roy in the end zone matched up against NUs best defender -- CB DeJaun Groce -- on a 16-yard fade route. The Horns reclaimed the lead with 10:21 remaining in the third, 13-10.
Forget that measly 19-play, 80-yard drive against Iowa State last week. The biggest possession Texas will have all year began when the Horns took over on its own 3-yard line with 8:34 left in the third. In the shadow of its own end zone, Benson reeled off his longest (and most important) run of the night when he carried for 17 yards.
With breathing room at the 20 (and with NU defenders laying off Roy like he was a leper), Simms hit Williams for five yards and then for seven more two plays later. Simms would move the chains himself on a nine-yard scramble and a two-yard keeper. Then, on a critical third-and-7 from the NU 48, Simms found Brett Robin out of the backfield for a 15-yard gain.
There would be, yet again, another of those game-breaking third-down situations (the kind that Texas could not even buy on a neutral site against Oklahoma).
Facing third-and-9 at the Husker 25, FL B.J. Johnson battled for a 25-yard completion as Robin leveled a blitzing strong safety.
The drive appeared to stall when Simms, not expecting the snap, injured his finger on the exchange. The result was a false start penalty and a called time-out needed to keep Simms in the game.
On second-and-goal from the Nebraska 13, Simms went to Johnson again who made the grab just inside the Husker 3-yard line. On the next play, Roy would gather in his second TD reception of the night.
Friends, that was a 17-play, 97-yard scoring drive that took 7:45 off the game clock.
With four seconds remaining in the third, it was 20-10, Texas.
But the home team would strike back quickly to start the fourth quarter. Lord found 6-4 freshman TE Matt Herian for just the third time this season, but the play was good for a 60-yard touchdown reception when Texas had just 10 men on the field. The Horns lead was trimmed to 20-17 with just 29 seconds gone in the third.
Texas would punt after its penalty-plagued first possession of the fourth quarter. After Lord raced for 22 yards to the Husker 41, the defense stiffened. The Horns took over on their own 19 with 7:36 remaining after P Kyle Larsons booming 51-yard punt.
Needing to run some clock while needing to remain (all together now!) two-dimensional, Simms found Ivan Williams on a 16-yard rollout pass. The big play of the drive was Edwards 32-yard reception that carried the Horns to the NU 5-yard line. It would take Benson two carries to crack the end zone and Texas lead was back at 10, 27-17, with 3:24 left.
But just when you thought it was safe to go back to Lincoln, the Huskers took over on the Texas 40 following a Richmond McGee pooch kick. A 9-yard Lord keeper, an 8-yard shovel pass to IB Josh Davis, a pair of pass interference penalties against Texas, and thats how Nebraska could score on a 2-yard IB Dahrran Diedrick run in a scant 43 seconds.
Now its a three-point Texas lead and the Children of the Corn are sensing their second dramatic come-form-behind victory in as many weeks.
Thank God RB Selvin Young returns the kick-off to the Texas 39. But it almost wasnt enough.
With Nebraska out of time outs and Texas facing 3rd-and-seven at its own 42 with 2:01 remaining, all it needed was one first down to run out the clock.
It appeared Texas earned that first down when Simms hit Roy Williams on a 10-yard completion near the Texas sideline.
about 40 seconds later
a downfield game official who wasnt within 20 yards of the play, throws a late flag. (And you figure here it might be a personal foul against the home team or, at worst, a celebration foul against Texas.)
But no! Its an offensive pass interference penalty against Williams. On the sideline, Brown is livid and on verge of doing his best Joe Paterno imitation. (And justifiably so. I have not been a proponent of instant replay in college football until this season, the two calls against Texas in the Oklahoma game notwithstanding.)
Instead of first down at the Nebraska 48, its third-and-22 at the Texas 27. Simms runs a QB draw to run some clock but then, with just under a minute to play, Bradfords boot ends up in the arms of the nations leading punt returner. Quicker than you can say "Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn", Groce carries both the ball and the collective hopes of the Husker Nation 45 yards to the Texas 16-yard line with 34 ticks remaining.
Lord is tackled for no gain and then spikes the ball to stop the clock with 16 seconds left.
Okay, you make the call.
Its third-and-10. Youve got no time outs. Do you attempt the 33-yard field goal on third down to send the game into overtime, knowing youve got one extra down remaining? (In my book, the teams that usually prevail in OT are the home teams and/or the squad that can run the ball. In this scenario, Nebraska gets the nod on both accounts.)
But Nebraska head coach Frank Solich opts for one last stab at the end zone, and Vasher is the one who stabs the stiletto into the Husker hearts.
"The decision not to kick the field goal is a very soul-searching decision," Solich said. "Certainly if I had it to do all over again I would do it."
"We were not automatic on a couple of previous field goals," the Nebraska head coach added. "One that was blocked and one that we did not get off. We did not look to be very smooth in that area. I didn't think it was necessarily automatic. The other thing I was hoping to do was to be able to get a flag route on them and if not then maybe get on the sideline and have it be a fourth down to where we would kidk the field goal. That's not the way it turned out."