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Kirk Bohls says: Scowling Huskers leave no doubt

By Kirk Bohls
American-Statesman Staff

Posted: Dec. 4, 1999


Texas gives.

Pressuring till it hurt, Nebraska put a stranglehold on Texas and didn't let up until the Longhorns relinquished any claim to the Big 12 football championship and their previous one-sided mastery in this rivalry.

Score this round for the Cornhuskers. Decisively.

A Texas football team that had won half a championship (South Division) showed up with half a team Saturday. Without any semblance of offense, the Longhorns were drawn and quartered by a superior Nebraska team.

Yes, they did avoid their first shutout in 225 games -- since a 16-0 blanking by Baylor in 1980 -- but they needed cornerback Ahmad Brooks' fourth-quarter, 20-yard fumble return for a touchdown to do so. As it was, the loss marked the first time in 14 years the Texas offense hadn't produced a point. Some consolation, huh?

Thanks to a bruising Cornhuskers defense, the only offensive Longhorn to reach scoring territory the entire game was Bevo. During his exit from the Alamodome field through the Nebraska end zone, the Longhorns mascot left several deposits of his own personalized, odoriferous calling card, the kind that required shovels and pails to clean.

Hey, when you play a defense as tough as Nebraska's, it happens. Texas became the fourth Cornhuskers opponent this year whose offense failed to score a point, and trust me, this 22-6 Nebraska victory was more about the Huskers than it was the Horns.

Texas was never in this game. Never.

From the time Nebraska drove into Longhorns territory on the opening possession to the time the bottom literally fell out of running back Hodges Mitchell's sack lunch, nothing went right.

The Longhorns never got closer to the end zone than the Cornhuskers 22. They suffered season-lows in points, total offense and rushing, and a school-record low in rushing, if you want to call 9 yards on the ground rushing. Blitzing everybody but the Big Red mascot, defensive coordinator Charlie McBride took a page from Kansas State's wreck-a-quarterback playbook and ravaged Texas with seven sacks, four turnovers and all manner of chaos. All seven sacks came in the first 2 1/2 quarters, which is when this game was decided.

This was less about scheme and more about scowl. The Cornhuskers wore one. Texas never matched Nebraska's emotional intensity and, although its defense gave a solid account of itself, the Longhorns were on their heels all day -- or rather their rear ends.

``When yours don't stop theirs,'' Texas Coach Mack Brown said, ``you're going to get beat."

It was a tribute to UT coordinator Carl Reese's rugged defense that the score didn't get out of hand, because Nebraska wanted it too bad, had prepared too hard and played too well for the entire 60 minutes to allow another Longhorns win.

As strong as they looked from whistle to whistle, the 11-1 Cornhuskers should be poster children for a college football playoff. Who'd bet against 'em winning it all?

``They finally got a taste of real Nebraska football,'' said All-America rover Mike Brown, who broke up five passes and intercepted one. ``We dominated them for four quarters. We shut 'em down. End of story."

Rather, end of this chapter. The story will unfold further, but it's obvious that after three consecutive deflating losses to Texas, Nebraska took it personally and made off with all the spoils this time. A second Big 12 football championship in three years. For once, bragging rights. A trip to the Fiesta Bowl, where Nebraska stands an excellent chance of whipping Tennessee and finishing No. 2 in the nation.

If Nebraska's Frank Solich doesn't lead the charge for a playoff -- as opposed to this Bowl Championship Series nonsense -- the second-year coach wasn't watching the same team that a crowd of 65,035 mostly Longhorns fans did. Of course, those fans were watching between their fingers.

Major Applewhite might as well have been peeking through his. He did not get a good look at an open receiver -- or a covered one, for that matter -- all day. He threw poorly, got little help from his receivers and wore Nebraska players as tightly as his No. 11 jersey. He was a better editor than quarterback Saturday.

``I don't want to be reading in the newspaper about how it was the offensive line's fault,'' said Applewhite, who probably should have been yanked in favor of backup Chris Simms, just to expose the freshman to this experience. ``Sometimes we didn't block. Sometimes we didn't throw. Sometimes we didn't catch."

It's hard enough to beat Nebraska with a modicum of offense, but Texas never approached the balance it needed.

``We were no-dimensional,'' Brown said. ``We couldn't run it or throw it."

So the Cornhuskers put the Longhorns in their place -- the lower-tier Cotton Bowl. Suffering consecutive losses for only the second time in Brown's two-year tenure, a 9-4 Texas team presumably will be pitted against another four-loss team, former Southwest Conference partner Arkansas.

And Nebraska, for now, remains entrenched.

``I think we're back on top,'' Cornhuskers nose tackle Steve Warren said. ``But in my mind, we never fell off."

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