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Defensive stand

[] Texas defense does usual solid job but can't force Nebraksa offense out of its running game

By Suzanne Halliburton
American-Statesman Staff

Posted: Dec. 4, 1999

SAN ANTONIO -- Statistically, the Texas defense had one of its best afternoons, limiting the potent Nebraska offense to 289 total yards, two touchdowns and 3.95 yards per play.

Dan Alexander, Nebraska's best running back, was forced out of the game in the first quarter after suffering a deep cut in his right palm that required more than a dozen stitches. And quarterback Eric Crouch completed five passes for 55 yards, his second-worst outing this season.

Yet after the game, the majority of the Longhorns defenders, who were on the field almost 16 minutes longer than their Cornhuskers counterparts, were hollow-eyed, as if in a trance. A score sheet measuring all the runs and passes of Saturday's game offered them little solace, considering the final score was 22-6.

``It just shows you stats don't really mean anything,'' Texas defensive end Cedric Woodard said.

Defensively speaking, the main difference between UT's game against Nebraska on Oct. 23 and the one played Saturday at the Alamodome was that the Longhorns could not force the Cornhuskers out of their familiar running patterns and into a passing attack ill-suited for their smash-mouth philosophy.

In October, UT, using its ends, safeties and linebackers, effectively ``slow-played,'' or strung out Crouch's option. On Saturday, Crouch was much more adept at cutting his runs and his pitches so that the plays effectively penetrated the gut of the Longhorns' line.

Nebraska's first touchdown came on a fourth-and-one play from the Texas 31. The UT defenders were anticipating a short-yardage dive, but Nebraska used a ``mid-line'' play, which had Crouch faking a handoff to the fullback and then following his I-back through the interior of the UT defense. Crouch ran the play to perfection, breaking through for the touchdown with no Longhorn coming close to tackling him.

Correll Buckhalter set up Nebraska's only other touchdown when he took a pitch and cut up the field, racing 55 yards. Crouch scored two plays later.

Nebraska used more counter-option plays than it did against the Longhorns in October. Texas middle linebacker D.D. Lewis estimated that he saw the Huskers' counter 15 times Saturday afternoon, with just over half of those plays going for significant yardage.

``They came out on top with that one,'' said Lewis, who was credited with a team-high 12 tackles.

Still, the UT defense forced nine punts and three Nebraska turnovers. If not for cornerback Ahmad Brooks' fumble return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, UT would have had its consecutive-game scoring streak stopped at 19 years (225 games).

``There at the end, we were saying, `Man, we've got to score,' '' UT defensive tackle Casey Hampton said. `` `We've got to do something to spark the offense.' Unfortunately, they couldn't get much going.''

UT Coach Mack Brown, other than his lauding of Nebraska, saved the majority of his compliments for his defense.

``Defensively, our guys played hard,'' Brown said. ``They played their guts out. Other than some plays made by Crouch, I think they played great.''

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