'It was like a movie'
McCoy leads late comeback to lift Texas over Nebraska.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
LINCOLN, Neb. — Colt McCoy's cheeks still were flushed a ruddy pink Saturday afternoon from the cold and blowing snow.
It hadn't truly sunk in yet. His Texas team had accomplished a victory so dramatic over Nebraska Saturday afternoon that the young Longhorn quarterback couldn't readily describe it.
"It's like it was a movie or something," McCoy mused. "You can't script it any better."
Who could even try to explain how Texas won 22-20 after a bare-armed redshirt freshman quarterback faced down a nasty blitz, a loud home crowd and directed a late fourth-quarter drive in dreadful weather?
And how the outcome of the game culminated in a 22-yard field goal from walk-on Ryan Bailey, who stepped onto a college field for the first time with his team trailing by one point and 27 seconds on the clock?
"This team never lost heart," McCoy said. "We had it in our minds that we were going to win this game."
But McCoy, Bailey and a host of Texas heroes had to make a serendipitous series of plays to take the game away from the Cornhuskers.
The victory kept the fifth-ranked Longhorns (7-1 overall, 4-0 in Big 12 play) in the national championship mix and on the path to the Big 12 title game. The No. 17 Cornhuskers, whose only other loss was to second-ranked Southern California, dropped to 6-2, 3-1.
"This is a huge win for our team," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It shows them that you don't have to be perfect so long as you keep trying and keep working."
That adage almost served as the Cornhusker theme for the afternoon, with the underdog home team erasing Texas' nine-point halftime lead with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Nebraska saved a special trick play — a 25-yard halfback pass from Marlon Lucky to Nate Swift — for what it thought would be the winning touchdown with 4 minutes, 54 seconds remaining.
And just as Swift crossed into the end zone, giving his team a 20-19 lead, even the weather seemed to swing in the Huskers' favor.
The northwest winds started to swirl. The snow, which had been coming down in spurts throughout the game, became thick, blowing horizontally across the field. The chilly, 35-degree conditions only served to heighten the enjoyment of a very loud, record-setting crowd of 85,187 at Memorial Stadium.
The noise grew louder as Nebraska defensive tackle Barry Cryer sacked McCoy, forcing a fumble that offensive tackle Adam Ulatoski fell on at the Texas 33.
It reached a crescendo with 2:23 to play, when Texas called its final timeout to stop the clock before the Huskers' third-and-3 from their own 36. A gain of three yards or more would ice the game. Brown and defensive co-coordinator Duane Akina walked onto the field and implored someone to make a stop, to give the offense one more chance.
Longhorns cornerback Aaron Ross took the pep talk to heart. As quarterback Zac Taylor rolled and dumped a pass to Terrence Nunn in the flat, Ross ducked his head as he collided with the wide receiver. The crown of Ross' helmet hit the ball, allowing safety Marcus Griffin to make the key recovery at the Nebraska 45.
A review of the play confirmed the fumble. Then McCoy and the offense took over. It took them eight plays to devastate the home team.
On first down, McCoy threw for eight yards to Quan Cosby. The two connected again on third down for a 14-yard gain, but safety Andrew Shanle punched the ball loose. Destiny probably already had accounted for offensive guard Kasey Studdard to fall on the ball at the Husker 22.
On first down, Selvin Young swept to his right and down the Nebraska sideline for 12 yards. He carried again for two. McCoy scrambled for three, then on third down, the quarterback took one final swat at the end zone, hoping Limas Sweed would pull in the high throw for the touchdown. Instead, Sweed, who had burned Nebraska for eight catches and 119 yards, "turned defender" and kept the ball from being intercepted.
Brown was forced to make a change in kickers because of Greg Johnson's pulled groin, an injury he suffered two weeks ago during the Oklahoma win. Earlier in the game, Johnson had an extra point blocked, then missed on two short field goal attempts. Brown said he called on Bailey, the sophomore, because he had yet to miss a kick in practice.
Nebraska used a coaches' challenge to force an official review of the previous play and give Bailey time to think about the kick. Bailey jumped up and down to keep his right leg loose.
As his kick flew through the uprights — just above a sign that reads "The Power of Red" — the entire Longhorn squad spilled onto the field for a victory celebration that seemed so improbable minutes before.
Nebraska's desperation passes to score in the final seconds fell incomplete, and McCoy was hoisted up by a teammate, then swarmed by cameras at midfield.
On a brutal day when Nebraska used a maximum blitz on most every second-half play, McCoy completed 25 of 39 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
"That's what's so good about Colt," said offensive guard Justin Blalock. "This was his first true away game. He faced a lot of adversity, but he held true to form."
"It was a storybook ending," Cosby said. "It just showed us all things are possible."