Saturday, October 16, 2010
Texas chalks one up for the Big 12
By David Ubben
You know what's not good for a conference? Having two national title contenders, with one planning to leave the league at the end of the year.
Thanks to Texas, the number of undefeated Big 12 teams in the top 10 -- for now, anyway -- is trimmed to one: Oklahoma, who kicks off against Iowa State in a few minutes.
Undefeated Missouri and Oklahoma State are looming near the top 20, but Nebraska's national championship run is officially derailed.
Just like this summer, Texas has miraculously saved the Big 12. I kid.
But seriously, the worst-case scenario for the Big 12 was having Nebraska win the league or national title and split for the Big Ten.
Instead, whatever mystique Texas has in games like this has been extended, in one of its most unlikely scenarios.
Now, Texas moves to 13-0 in games after the Red River Rivalry under Mack Brown and Nebraska falls to 1-9 against the Longhorns in Big 12 play, perhaps no loss as painful as this one. Today's 20-13 win is also the third consecutive time and unranked Texas team has beaten a Nebraska team ranked in the top 5.
The Longhorns dodged a pooch punt gone horribly wrong, shut down Taylor Martinez, weathered an impressive drive by his replacement, Zac Lee, to give up just a field goal and beat Nebraska.
The Huskers looked like a team tailor-made to beat Texas, focused on the ground game without a need to throw into the most talented part of the Texas team, the secondary. Today, the Huskers had to throw to come back, but Niles Paul and Brandon Kinnie dropped potential touchdown passes, squandering the opportunities Nebraska did get down the field.
The Longhorns debuted a game plan with a running quarterback in Garrett Gilbert (10 carries, 68 yards, 2 TDs in the first half) and beat Nebraska while Gilbert completed just 4-of-16 passes for 62 yards, including a 41-yard catch-and-run to Fozzy Whittaker and just one completion to a receiver, a five-yarder to Malcolm Williams. The defense that looked so vulnerable against UCLA's zone-read scheme stymied Nebraska's. Credit Will Muschamp's scheme and the pursuit and tackling of Texas' defenders on that one.
This wasn't the Texas we saw in the first five games, both in strategy and execution. When people talk about Brown as one of the best coaches in the Big 12 and college football, games like this provide more big reasons why.