Big 12: Horns-Huskers 120509

Texas defense rebounds in title game

December, 6, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas – After being embarrassed in its worst performance of the season last week, Texas’ defense was determined to make amends.

Good thing, because the Longhorns needed a sterling defensive performance to eke out a 13-12 victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 title game.

After allowing season-worst totals in points and total yards last week against Texas A&M, the Longhorns’ defense was charged up about their chance at redemption.

“We did remember that game, because it just wasn’t us,” Texas safety Blake Gideon said. “You’re supposed to have a short memory as a defensive back and a defense. But we did remember that game, the mistakes we made and how we were exposed. We wanted to prove that was the real Texas.”

Playing against a Nebraska offense that seemed to be playing directly into Texas’ strength, the Longhorns stoned Nebraska throughout the game.

The Cornhuskers were limited to season lows of five first downs and 106 yards of total offense as they produced a season-worst 1.93 yards per snap.

Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson seemed content to try to run the ball inside against Texas’ strong interior -- a group that led the nation in rush defense. The Cornhuskers were limited to 67 rushing yards, including no runs by a running back of more than 7 yards.

Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp called it the best effort of the season.

“In a big-time atmosphere, that was a big game, to rise up and make the stops we did” Muschamp said. “They aren’t a dynamic throwing team, but they are a good running team and they are physical and tough up front. I was proud of how the guys played.”

At one point, Texas limited the Cornhuskers without a first down for more than 32 minutes as they either forced a turnover or a three-and-out on eight consecutive possessions.

After the struggles last week, Muschamp said he hardly needed to remind his players of their struggles against the Aggies.

“We have a real prideful group,” Muschamp said. “They know they didn’t play well. I didn’t need to say anything to them. We gave them examples of what they did that had been right and wrong. And that’s how we approached it.”

On a day when Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh waged a one-man crusade for the Heisman Trophy, the Longhorns played some pretty good defense, too.

“Looking back at our game against A&M, we knew that wasn’t our standard,” Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle said. “We have played pretty good on defense. We got back to our standards and we came out here and played like it. Practice paid off, as you can see.”

Four Alex Henery field goals accounted for all of Nebraska’s scoring. It was the first time the Cornhuskers had been held without a touchdown since their loss at Virginia Tech earlier this season.

“We just couldn’t get any movement up front,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “They limited our running game. They’re a good defense, a formidable group that is very talented and well coached.”

And in the process, the Longhorns’ defense was able to exorcise some bad memories as many of them left the field with roses as they prepare for their upcoming trip to the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl.

"We were trying to make a point that last week wasn’t how we prepare and perform as a defense,” Gideon said. “It was big for us to remember what happened and then come back out here and play like we know how to do."

Lawrence etches name in Longhorn lore

December, 6, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When asked by a reporter this week if he was ready to win the Big 12 championship with a kick, Texas kicker Hunter Lawrence said he would have preferred his team to cruise to a 21-point victory.

Lawrence wasn't quite that fortunate Saturday night, but he still etched his name in Longhorn lore with one of the clutch plays in the history of the school.

[+] EnlargeHunter Lawrence
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesHunter Lawrence nailed a 46-yard field goal as time expired to give Texas a 13-12 victory over Nebraska.
His 46-yard field goal as time expired boosted Texas into the BCS national championship game with a 13-12 victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game.

"I was just trying to stay focused and not get too nervous," Lawrence said. "It was a great feeling when it finally went through."

His teammates could joke after the game about Lawrence's excitement to make history.

"Hunter's always wanted to be on that stage," Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said. "He's been asking me all year to get there."

Lawrence's time at Texas has been star-crossed throughout his career. He was one of Mack Brown's first scholarship kickers, but lost his starting job to Ryan Bailey in 2006. In one of Bailey's first clutch kicks, he beat Nebraska in the snow on a late kick.

Despite losing his job, Lawrence never lost his faith. He rebounded to reclaim the starting job midway through last season and converted 21 of 24 kicks before his last-second attempt.

There was some doubt he would receive a chance Saturday night. Game officials originally ruled that the clock expired, before huddling and placing another second on the clock to give Lawrence his opportunity.

"When we saw Colt talking about it, we saw time left, but it's never good when you have something in somebody other than your team's hands," Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle said. "So hopefully, we were thinking the Lord saw the clock on one, and that the refs was going to stay true to his morals and give us our second."

To soothe Lawrence during two Nebraska timeouts that preceded his kick, holder Jordan Shipley calmed him with a Bible verse as a nod to routine.

"We've been kind of doing that before practice and every time we warm up," Shipley said. "So I gave him Jeremiah 17:7, that says that 'blessed is a man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in him.'

"We all had faith in Hunter and his ability and I think everybody on our sideline was full of faith and confidence that he was going to make that kick. I just tried to ease his mind because I'm sure he was feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders at that time."

It was the fourth game-winning kick on the final play in Mack Brown's coaching tenure at Texas. Lawrence's first game-winning attempt enabled him to join Dusty Mangum (2005 Rose Bowl against Michigan) and Bailey (2006 against Nebraska and 2007 against Oklahoma State.)

With the rest of his team playing so hard in its bid for its first Big 12 title since 2005, Lawrence was determined to make the kick -- even if he had to battle through nerves.

"We went out there and knew we had to make it, because their defense had played so well and our offense did an amazing job in the last minute to give us a chance," Lawrence said. "I just had to make it for them."

Texas gets breaks on final drive

December, 6, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas – It likely won’t go down in history as “The Drive.”

The game-winning Texas possession depended more on one big play and one extra second, leading to Hunter Lawrence’s field goal and a 13-12 victory.

[+] EnlargeColt McCoy
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesColt McCoy was 20 of 36 for 184 yards with three interceptions but did enough to get Texas the Big 12 championship.
But Texas’ final drive boosted the Longhorns into the BCS title game – even if it didn’t come with many style points.

Texas coach Mack Brown said quarterback Colt McCoy’s gritty determination on a day when he was intercepted three times and sacked nine times will resonate with Heisman voters.

“Everybody wants a Heisman moment and I thought that was it,” Brown said. “I think that’s his 12th fourth-quarter comeback. We saw there was 1:49 left … That was plenty of time for our offense to score. It’s just so many times before the half or the end of the game where we’ve driven down to win the game.”

The Longhorns got a huge break on the kickoff when the normally reliable Adi Kunalic shanked the kickoff out of bounds. Kunalic had led the Big 12 in touchbacks this season. But his mistake gave the Longhorns 20 extra yards they ended up needing.

Before the Longhorns broke the huddle, McCoy calmed his team and reminded them of the opportunity they had in front of them.

“I walked into the huddle and told the offensive linemen it’s one at a time,” McCoy said. “I love each and every one of them and let’s make it happen.”

On the first play, McCoy hit Jordan Shipley for a short pass that he turned into a 19-yard gain. The Longhorns got 15 more yards on the play because Nebraska safety Larry Asante was flagged for a horse collar tackle.

McCoy then was sacked twice and threw an incomplete before Lawrence drilled his game-winning kick.

Even in the excitement of the dramatic victory, McCoy was excited about what the Longhorns had done.

In a sense it was poetic justice from last season’s disappointment. The Longhorns’ only loss came last season at Texas Tech with one second left. This season they were able to convert their chances and are 13-0 after getting their ugliest victory of the season.

“To be an undefeated team at 13-0, you have to win in different ways,” Brown said. “You’ve seen Alabama block field goals in the last second. You saw this team run up and down the field last week and the defense struggled. But you saw the offense do enough to win tonight.”

On a day when McCoy left the field banged up, he was more excited about nailing down his first Big 12 championship than any personal goals.

“It was just one of those nights. Those guys played tough defense all night. It came down to one second,” McCoy said. “We knew it was going to be tough coming in. We didn’t want to let it come down to the wire like that, but we were able to pull through.”

Nebraska's Suh plays game of his life

December, 6, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas – Colt McCoy could joke after the game about how much he saw of Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

“Yeah, we’re best friends,” McCoy said.

Suh had one of the great games in Big 12 championship game history, producing a career-best 4.5 sacks among his team-high 12 tackles -- seven of which were for a loss.

But it wasn’t enough as the Longhorns escaped with a wild 13-12 victory that cost the Cornhuskers their first chance to win a Big 12 title since 1999.
[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh & Colt McCoy
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesNebraska's Ndumakong Suh took Texas quarterback Colt McCoy down for 4.5 sacks.

The massive 300-pound senior defensive tackle was a consistent force throughout the game. He slung McCoy around like a rag doll and dominated the interior of the Texas offensive line from the opening snap.

“He’s the staple of our defense,” Nebraska safety Matt O’Hanlon said. “He makes plays that not a lot of other guys could. So for us to have him in the trenches, you know, he just plays his butt off. He makes a lot of plays that no one else makes. So he definitely kept our defense in it.”

If a defensive player ever could have made a statement to win a Heisman Trophy, Suh’s game Saturday night looked like one. Texas guards Michael Huey and Charlie Tanner and center Chris Hall found it impossible keeping him out of the backfield all night long.

“I think he’s the best defensive player at his position in the country,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “If that means the Heisman Trophy, so be it.”

The finish left Suh subdued and disappointed.

“My initial emotion is that it was very unfortunate how things played out,” Suh said. “But I mean, this team played very, very hard and that’s what we all really do. Like our coach said, the chips fall where they may. Just go out and play as hard as you can.

“They’re going to handle the score, they’re going to do everything to put us in the right position as they did. And all we have to do is go out and play.”

Unfortunately for the Cornhuskers, one play remained at the end of the game. After the controversy on the next-to-last play, Suh was convinced the Cornhuskers had won and that the clock had expired.

“As far as I’m concerned, I thought the game was over, but obviously, it wasn’t,” Suh said.

Longhorn players and coaches were raving about Suh’s performance after the game.

“He’s the best defensive player we’ve played all year,” Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “He and (Nebraska defensive tackle Jared) Crick are as good a pair as we’ve faced all year. They are so tough to handle because they really get after you.”

Suh came back for his senior season for an opportunity to play in conference championship games and improve his draft stock.

He obviously did both this season, finishing with 82 total tackles and 12 sacks. That total is the third most in Nebraska history and the most since linebacker Trev Alberts notched 15 in 1993.

It’s hard to believe many NFL teams could find a better player on the film than him tonight.

Texas scores wild 13-12 win over Nebraska

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colt McCoy's late clock management almost cost the Longhorns a chance to advance to the Bowl Championship Series title game. As he rolled out, he threw the ball out of bounds as the clock almost ran out on the play. After Nebraska fans stormed the field, officials ruled there was one more second left on the clock. Hunter Lawrence took advantage by converting a season-best 46-yard field goal on the next play as time expired.

Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 308 yards of total offense -- the lowest combined total in Big 12 history.

Player of the game: McCoy completed 20 of 36 pass for 184 yards and rushed 17 times for minus-20 yards and a touchdown. The statistics were pedestrian, but his team will advance to Pasadena. And his late drive that set up Lawrence’s field goal will resonate for Texas fans for the ages.

Unsung hero of the game: Nebraska returner Niles Paul contributed a pair of 42-yard returns that gave the Cornhuskers a jolt. His 42-yard kickoff return helped prime some life in the moribund Nebraska offense. And his 42-yard punt return later in the fourth quarter set up a Nebraska field goal.

Second guessing: Why did Texas take so much time on the final drive? The Longhorns huddled after every play. And McCoy almost cost his team when the clock nearly expired. It almost cost the Longhorns a shot at the national championship.

Record performance: Ndamukong Suh produced 4.5 sacks to set a Big 12 championship game record. Suh’s big night also included five tackles for losses.

Henery's field goal gives Nebraska late lead

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alex Henery has added his fourth field goal of the game with a 42-yard kick to give the Cornhuskers a 12-10 lead with 1:44 left.

Zac Lee's 19-yard scramble started the drive and a key pass from Lee to Brandon Kinnie were key plays on the scoring drive.

Colt McCoy has one drive left. His Heisman and the Longhorns' BCS hopes will be depending on it.

Gomes' key interception kills Texas drive

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Just when you think the Nebraska defense can't make a bigger play, DeJon Gomes provided another one.

The junior cornerback wrestled away a pass intended for Dan Buckner for a key interception.

The Cornhuskers have one more chance left.

Paul punt return leads to Nebraska FG

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Nebraska impotent offense needed a big play on special teams to crawl back into the game.

Niles Paul provided a 42-yard punt return to the Texas 10.

But Nebraska couldn't produce on its first three plays in the red zone tonight as Chykie Brown defensed a pass intended for Brandon Kinnie in the Texas end zone.

Alex Henery provided a 28-yard field goal to pull within 10-9 with 11:34 left.

Nebraska got a huge break on the ensuing kickoff when Marquise Goodwin slipped at the Texas 1.

Colt McCoy will be facing a huge disadvantage in field position. The Longhorns need a couple of first downs to extricate themselves from the shadow of their own end zone.

Nebraska QB Zac Lee returns to the game

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Starting Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee returned to the game midway through the third quarter after sitting out one Nebraska series.

After being pinned at the Nebraska 6 by Colt McCoy's quick kick, the Cornhuskers had atrocious field position.

The Cornhuskers were flagged twice for illegal motion penalties -- surprisingly considering they were backed into the area where most of the Nebraska fans have congregated.

Lee completed a 6-yard pass to Rex Burkhead on Nebraska's final play.

Lee's stats are struggling so far. He completed 3 of 14 of his passes for 14 yards with three interceptions.

Freshman QB Green in for Nebraska

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Freshman quarterback Cody Green was inserted into the lineup in the toughest of situations for Nebraska.

Green started from inside the Nebraska 1 after a penalty. After two 2-yard gains, his third-down pass from the end zone was almost intercepted by Blake Gideon.

After a short Alex Henery punt, Texas has the ball on the Nebraska 45.

Let's see if the Cornhuskers' defense can come up with another huge stop.

Texas can't convert turnover into points

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Roddrick Muckelroy provided a key interception on a deflected pass to give Texas possession at the Nebraska 32.

But the Nebraska defense stiffened and forced a fourth-down quick kick from Colt McCoy after a key third-down sack by blitzing Nebraska safety Matt O'Hanlon.

For all of the talk about Ndamukong Suh's one-man demolition inside, Texas' defense has been pretty salty as well.

Will Muschamp's unit has forced two interceptions and three three-and-outs on Nebraska's last five possessions. The Cornhuskers haven't made a first down in the last 24 minutes -- and counting.

A couple of other notes:
  • Suh has 3.5 sacks so far in the game, setting a conference championship game record.
  • Tonight's crowd of 76,211 is the third-largest in conference history.

Halftime: Texas 7, Nebraska 6

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- In one of the ugliest first halves in Big 12 championship game history, Texas has slogged ahead of Nebraska en route to a 7-6 halftime lead at the break.

Here's why they have been able to do it:

Turning point: Eric Hagg’s pass interference in the end zone -- when he was ruled to have face-guarded Dan Buckner -- put the Longhorns at the Nebraska 4-yard line. It gave the Longhorns a critical conversion on a third-and-14 play when their offense finally was showing signs of life. Colt McCoy scored two plays later, giving Texas its first lead.

Stat of the half: Texas’ defense has limited Nebraska to 32 yards on 28 snaps in the first half. That’s an average of 1.14 yards per play. The Cornhuskers produced only two first downs and none of those came in the last 18 minutes of the half.

Best player in the half: Ndamukong Suh is living up to his promise as an All-American defensive tackle with four tackles, 2.5 sacks and three tackles for losses. He’s personally helped clog up the middle of the Texas line and make life miserable for McCoy for much of the half.

Best call: Game officials get the honors here on a tough decision early in the first half. Rex Burkhead appeared to have been stopped short of the first down at the Nebraska 31. But after a second look at the replays, they ruled that Burkhead had made the first down with inches to spare.

What Texas needs to do: The Longhorns struggled offensively before showing life late in the first half on their scoring drive. McCoy worked several different receivers into the rotation and overcame three sacks earlier in the drive. That resiliency will be important to start the second quarter. McCoy should follow a similar plan by utilizing all of the weapons at his disposal as the second half progresses.

What Nebraska needs to do: The Nebraska offense is sputtering, mainly because they have stubbornly continued to try to hammer the inner strength of the Texas defense. It’s obvious that any thought that the Cornhuskers’ coaches thought about running “downhill” against the Longhorns appears misguided. They might try some outside running plays. And it might be a time to work backup freshman quarterback Cody Green in for a series -- just for the opportunity to change the pace of the game. Nebraska has to do something early after producing so little in the second quarter -- an interception and three-straight three-and-outs to finish the half.

Pass interference call sets up Texas lead

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Colt McCoy has rebounded after struggling most of the first half to push Texas into a 7-6 lead with 2:19 left in the first half.

The nine-play, 42-yard drive was capped by McCoy's 2-yard TD run to provide the Longhorns' first lead of the game.

McCoy looked much more comfortable on the scoring drive after throwing two interceptions earlier in the half.

He hooked up with Jordan Shipley on a 13-yard strike early in the drive. Later he connected with Malcolm Williams on a 16-yard strike.

But the most critical play in the drive was a pass interference penalty by Nebraska defensive back Eric Hagg in the end zone. Hagg was ruled to have face-guarded Dan Buckner on the play.

McCoy scored two plays later.

McCoy's wrist injury requires treatment

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas trainers were wrapping Colt McCoy's left wrist with tape along the sidelines.

McCoy appeared to injure his wrist when he was knocked out of bounds on a sack by Ndamukong Suh early in the second quarter.

The injury doesn't appear to be serious as McCoy returned with the Longhorns' offense for the next possession.

Nebraska's special teams key early lead

December, 5, 2009
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Alex Henery has helped spark the Cornhuskers to an early 6-0 lead after one quarter of the Big 12 championship game.

It hasn't been pretty. Colt McCoy's Heisman hopes have taken a hit as he has thrown two interceptions and the Texas offense has sputtered.

Henery has drilled field goals of 45 and 52 yards to account for all of the scoring. The 52-yarder is the longest in the history of the Big 12's conference championship game.

He also pinned Texas at the Longhorns 10 to start their last possession. After one first down, the Cornhuskers got the ball back on a third-down stop.