Saturday, July 14, 2001
'Horns roll left 'Huskers stunned
By Phillip Lee
Special to ESPN Classic
When Texas upended Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 championship game, many believed it was one of the biggest upsets in college football history.
But don't tell that to then-Texas quarterback James Brown.
"I thought we had a great team," said Brown, who currently plays for the Nashville Kats of the Arena Football League. "We played really well that season and had won some big games."
Heading into the game, the consensus was that third-ranked Nebraska would roll over Texas with ease. The 10-1 Cornhuskers, who were seeking their third straight national championship, were three touchdown favorites against the Longhorns.
However, Brown believed that Texas matched up very well against Nebraska.
"(Nebraska) liked to blitz and they were perfect for us," Brown said. "We had a great offensive line and a great offense. We were confident we could beat them. It was a high-scoring game and we outscored them."
While one would think all the pressure was on Nebraska, Brown said there were plenty of nerves on Texas as well.
"We didn't want to embarrass ourselves in the first-ever Big 12 championship game," Brown said. "We wanted to have a good showing and play well."
Brown and the Longhorns did play well, but the game came down to the wire and to one single play -- "roll left." On fourth-and-one with 2:40 left in the game, Texas had ball on its own 28-yard line and the lead, 30-27.
"(Nebraska) thought we were just going to try and run it for a yard and get the first down," Brown said. "We surprised them."
Brown stunned Nebraska and passed to tight end Derek Lewis for a 61-yard completion. On the next play, running back Priest Holmes scored from 11 yards out to put the game away and the Longhorns became the first champions of the Big 12 Conference.
The 1996 season was a rollercoaster ride for Texas. The No. 8 Longhorns started the 1996 season with a pair of victories and moved up to sixth in the rankings.
But after gaining in the polls, Texas lost to Notre Dame on Sept. 21 and that was the start of a downward spiral. The Longhorns dropped three of their next four games, fell to 3-4 and plummeted out of the rankings. If it was any consolation, three of the four losses were by four points or less.
The Longhorns managed to salvage the season by winning their last four games. Texas was 7-4 overall, but more importantly, finished first in the Big 12 South Division at 7-2 and earned a spot in the inaugural Big 12 championship game against Nebraska.
Unfortunately for the Longhorns, they could not follow up on their win over the Huskers. Texas was beaten by Penn State, 38-15, in the Fiesta Bowl.