Wednesday, October 13, 2010
No. 5 Nebraska seeks Texas-sized revenge
By Brad Edwards
Few things could be sweeter for Nebraska than a victory over Texas in its final season as Big 12 foes.
That's because, political issues aside, Texas has dealt Nebraska some of its most crushing defeats since the conference was founded.
It started with the inaugural Big 12 Championship Game in 1996. Nebraska was ranked No. 3 and, in that pre-BCS era, was positioned to play No. 1 Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Unranked Texas, however, had other plans, and a late comeback attempt by the Huskers was foiled by a gutsy fourth-down call by Longhorns coach John Mackovic on his own side of midfield. Texas went on to win, 37-27, and Nebraska's bowl spot against FSU was taken by Florida, which ultimately won the national title by beating the Seminoles.
Nebraska's first shot at revenge came in 1998, when new Texas coach Mack Brown took his unranked Longhorns to Lincoln. But the No. 7 Huskers couldn't contain eventual Heisman winner Ricky Williams, who rushed for 150 yards, and freshman Major Applewhite threw a TD pass with less than three minutes remaining to give Texas a 20-16 win, snapping Nebraska's school-record 47-game home winning streak.
A year later, the Cornhuskers made the trip to Austin with a No. 3 ranking and took a 13-3 halftime lead over 18th-ranked Texas. The Horns struck back, however, and ultimately won the game with another late TD pass by Applewhite, 24-20. Nebraska came back several weeks later to thump Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game, but the damage had been done. The Huskers finished third in the final BCS Standings, edged out for the coveted No. 2 spot by undefeated Virginia Tech.
By 2002, Nebraska had built another substantial home winning streak -- this one a national-best 24 games. Naturally, it was time for Texas to come into town and crash the party. Chris Simms had a big day through the air, but Nebraska found itself trailing just 27-24 in the final minute with the ball in the red zone. Before a game-tying field goal could be attempted, Nathan Vasher picked off Nebraska QB Jammal Lord at the goal line to end the game.
And then there was last year. You know the story. Texas was trying to earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Alabama, and Nebraska was trying to get its first signature win in the Bo Pelini era. The defense on both sides was suffocating, as Ndamukong Suh vaulted himself into the Heisman discussion and probably kept Colt McCoy from winning the award in the process. But the ultimate victory went to the Longhorns, who answered a late score by Nebraska with a 46-yard field goal on the final play (after one second had been put back on the clock, following McCoy's sideline incompletion).
Nothing the Huskers do on Saturday would be able to erase those memories, but a win over Texas would probably feel like a nice parting gift to the Big 12.