LINCOLN, Neb. — The computers still don't like the Longhorns. But a less technical power does.
This power has liked — no, loved — them. This power has gone with them to Arkansas and Kansas and Ohio and California.
This power is there when Vince Young is playing and when he is watching. This power has turned the Coach Who Couldn't Win a Big Game into Magical Mack, and that means this power can do anything.
Don't be surprised, no matter what the computers say this week, if Texas finds itself playing for another national title.
Talent aids this power, as does coaching. Mack Brown seems to frame everything well now, and he did for his players who went through a 60-degree temperature change this week. "Don't talk about the NFL," Brown told them, "and then say you don't want to play in Lincoln because it's cold."
Limas Sweed, who looks more and more like a pro receiver, listened. His 55-yard TD catch came with the body language of a Midwesterner who looks forward to the first shovel of snow.
Texas plowed Nebraska the same way. Once corn-fed linemen were the iconic figures of this Cornhuskers program. This time, especially before Texas defenders began to limp off, Nebraska couldn't run.
When the Cornhuskers did score, it was with more mystery than muscle. When Texas defensive backs weren't running into each other, then another DB was biting on the halfback pass.
But those touchdowns count, too. And after the Nebraska halfback pass (thrown by a sophomore named Lucky), Texas had little reason to feel fortunate. On the road, trailing after appearing to be in control, with snow flurries suddenly increasing, wouldn't even Young have been tested?
In no certain order, Colt McCoy aged yet another semester; Aaron Ross aimed his helmet at a football being held by a Cornhuskers receiver; and a future leader in the advertising sector stepped onto a college field for the very first time in his life and stroked the game-winner.
"It's the little things," Texas receiver Quan Cosby said later. Then he offered a big thing as an example. On the final Texas drive Cosby took yet another hitch pass from McCoy and ran for 14 yards.
Cosby fumbled, putting everything in doubt — until Kasey Studdard, the Texas guard, scrambled for the recovery. "He could have stopped when I passed him," Cosby said, and then he paused and smiled. "Now I have to buy him dinner."
Cosby is right. Studdard had to hustle to make this happen. But Texas recovered four of its own fumbles this day. Is that because the Longhorns tried harder? Or, such as when Texas also recovered after Ross' game-changing hit, is it about a bounce?
Young got away with a few throws last season, and a memorable one came late against USC. McCoy also did on Saturday. Had his last lob before the field goal been intercepted, all of this talk of Mack and his magic would have been carried away with the winter weather.
But it's also true Young changed all expectations last year, and he left behind the same energy in his former teammates. As much as anything, this explains how Texas has won 28 of its last 29 on the road, with dramatics required from Kansas to California.
This one required a walk-on kicker beating a program once known for its walk-ons. Ryan Bailey, who went to Texas to learn about advertising, arrived at the stadium as unknown in the morning as he was famous in the afternoon. He'd come to the game, he said, only expecting to "do my job as a backup kicker."
That job description: Kick a few before the game, then try to stay warm.
Bailey wasn't asked to be Adam Vin- atieri with 23 seconds left; Texas only needed what amounted to an extra point. But in this weather and in this setting, what he did took composure. As it is with his teammates, he leaned on something that has become tangible in that locker room, and he believed in magic.
The computers just don't recognize it yet.