By Jimmy Burch
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
SAN ANTONIO -- Nebraska coach Frank Solich said yesterday he will make a game-time decision about the status of tight end Tracey Wistrom, who suffered a sprained knee during Tuesday's practice but is expected to suit up for today's Big 12 championship game in the Alamodome.
Wistrom, an all-Big 12 performer, has not practiced since suffering the injury, and Solich said he considered leaving the 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore off the team's travel roster. Wistrom has 16 catches for 429 yards this season (26.8 average), including two catches for 87 yards during the Cornhuskers' 24-20 loss to Texas on Oct. 23.
"How he is when we warm up will determine an awful lot," Solich said of Wistrom's availability. "How much he plays, or whether he plays at all, won't be determined until game time. The loss of Tracey, if he's not playing up to par, could be tough. You don't take a player of Tracey Wistrom's ability out of your offense without it playing a role."
Wistrom was a first-team member of the all-conference team selected by Big 12 coaches. As of yesterday, his injury was the only one clouding the availability of a projected starter for either team.
Texas coach Mack Brown said quarterback Major Applewhite "should be ready to start and play at a high level" after playing only the fourth quarter of last week's 20-16 loss to Texas A&M because of a stomach virus. Brown said Applewhite has regained most of the 12 pounds he lost because of the illness and has looked sharp this week in workouts.
In addition, Brown said Ryan Nunez (53 catches, 569 yards) and Jeremy Jones (14 catches, 273 yards) will return to Texas' receiver rotation after sitting out the A&M game because of toe and ankle ailments, respectively.
"We should be in good shape with our health," Brown said.
Still a surprise
Although his team has won three consecutive games against Nebraska, Mack Brown said most people "still would be very surprised" if the Longhorns win today as eight-point underdogs. Texas won as a nine-point underdog Oct. 23, as a 17-point underdog in 1998 and as a 21-point underdog in the 1996 Big 12 title game.
The key to changing public perception, Brown said, is for the 12th-ranked Longhorns to play with the consistency of the third-ranked Cornhuskers.
"We need to get in the Top 10 and stay there, like Nebraska has done," Brown said. "We're visiting that neighborhood. We need to buy a house and stay. Then, people will give us the national respect we want."
Kevin Weiberg, Big 12 commissioner, will miss today's game to be with family members following the death of his father. Dale Weiberg, a resident of Anthony, Kan., died yesterday after a long bout with cancer. ... Two assistant coaches who will match wits in today's game have been named as finalists for national awards honoring coordinators. Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis is one of five finalists for the Frank Broyles Award, give each year to the nation's top assistant coach. Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride is a finalist for the American Football Coaches Associations's assistant-coach-of-the-year award.
Jimmy Burch, (817) 390-7760