By The Star-Telegram
Texas quarterback Major Applewhite zipped passes and impressed teammates during yesterday's practice, his first action since a stomach virus limited him to fourth-quarter duty in last week's 20-16 loss to Texas A&M.
"Major looks like he's regained most of his strength. He was very accurate with his throws," Texas coach Mack Brown said.
What Applewhite has yet to regain is lost weight. The sophomore ate his first solid food in five days yesterday (chicken and rice) and said he hopes to begin regaining the 12 pounds he's lost from the illness. Applewhite said his physical condition should be no factor in Saturday's Big 12 championship game between No. 12 Texas (9-3) and No. 3 Nebraska (10-1).
"He looked like his old self out there to me," tailback Hodges Mitchell said. "I thought he looked fine."
Two receivers who missed the A&M game, Jeremy Jones (ankle) and Ryan Nunez (turf toe), also returned to practice yesterday. Brown said he expects both to play against Nebraska. Jones, he said, is running at full speed for the first time since the team's Nov. 6 game at Oklahoma State. Nunez, he said, worked at full speed in roughly half the drills and will be eased into a heavier workload as the week progresses.
-- Jimmy Burch
Change of plans
The toughest aspect about Saturday's rematch with Nebraska is devising a fresh game plan to beat the Cornhuskers for the second time in one season, Texas coach Mack Brown said. Some tweaks are mandatory, Brown said, because coaches from both schools already know what their rivals consider the best way to beat them.
"There's no element of surprise this time," said Brown, whose team focused on containing the option runs of quarterback Eric Crouch (17 carries, 35 yards) in a 24-20 victory on Oct. 23. "They've already seen our best plan. They'll make adjustments based on that, and so will we. You have to."
Texas quarterback Major Applewhite said: "You can't throw the same game plan against them and expect it to work again."
-- Jimmy Burch
Saturday's matchup will mark the first time in 90 years for Texas to play the same opponent twice in one season. The Longhorns last did so in 1909, losing two games to Texas A&M by scores of 23-0 and 5-0.
In those days, rematches were common because of travel difficulties. Between 1899 and 1909, Texas played multiple games against the same opponent on nine occasions: six times against A&M, twice against Oklahoma and once against Tulane.
The results? Texas swept both games on five occasions, breaking out the brooms three times against the Aggies (1908, 1901, 1900) and once each against Oklahoma (1901) and Tulane (1899). Only the 1909 Aggies swept the Longhorns.
-- Jimmy Burch
About that play, coach
Nebraska's weekly news conference was launched yesterday with congratulations all around for Frank Solich, just named coach of the year in the Big 12.
But, somebody had to ask: "Coach, would you have voted for yourself after calling that last pitch play against Colorado?"
Solich laughed and said, "I knew that was coming ... it's amazing how much attention that play has attracted."
The reference was to the first play called after Nebraska recovered a fumble at the Colorado 16-yard line with less than two minutes to play in a 27-27 game, seemingly rescuing itself from a withering fourth-quarter rally by the Buffaloes. But instead of running straight ahead, winding down the clock for a point-blank field goal, Solich called an option and I-back Dan Alexander fumbled the pitchout back to Colorado at the 15. The Buffs then nearly won the game with a drive of their own, but missed a 24-yard field goal at the end, setting up a Nebraska victory in overtime.
Solich rattled off a number of equally crucial plays that led to the eventual victory, noting that "with only 25 seconds to make a decision," one can't always be right.
"But having said that," he concluded, "given the chance ... no, I would not call that play again."
-- Whit Canning
Not so funny fumbles
Pursuing a different angle on the same front -- Nebraska has lost 23 of 47 fumbles and is unhappily leading the nation -- someone asked, "Really, does it sometimes get kind of comical, watching all those fumbles on film?"
Eyeing the interrogator carefully, Frank Solich replied, "I wouldn't really say ... comical. Actually, when the staff is sitting there watching those things, there aren't many chuckles.
"We are receiving help from the fans, though. We've received gloves and glue in the mail, although I haven't yet gotten a football with a handle on it, like I did a few years ago."
-- Whit Canning