FG bursts hopes for Huskers, Frogs
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's amazing how so many feelings for so many fans in Texas can change with one second.
When Colt McCoy's pass crossed the Nebraska sidelines, landing on the railing by one of the ground-level suites, it appeared Texas' dreams of a national title were over. At the same time, it looked like TCU's Horned Frogs had turned into championship princes, complete with a purple tint.
The clock, after all, showed 0:00 and Nebraska players, coaches and fans were jumping and hugging. The Huskers' huge team flag even was being waved at midfield.
"We thought we won the game," Nebraska safety Matt O'Hanlon said.
But it didn't take long for everyone on the field and in the stands to realize the game wasn't over. Replays showed the ball landed out of bounds with a second still on the clock.
And with so much on the line in parts of the Lone Star State -- Arlington, Austin and Fort Worth -- the Longhorns got one more play. And with it, kicker Hunter Lawrence snuck a season-long 46-yard field goal inside the left upright for the 13-12 win.
"I thought the time was over," said Ndamukong Suh, who had 4.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and was clearly the best player on the Cowboys Stadium turf on Saturday night. "Obviously, it wasn't. So they had an opportunity to kick the field goal. Our job on defensive line was to block that field goal. We didn't do that, so they ended up winning the game."
The kick sent Texas players streaming onto the field in jubilation. Coach Mack Brown held his hands up to signal the kick was good. Moments later, he was hoisting his second Big 12 championship trophy since coming to Texas, telling fans, "We'll see you in Pasadena."
The last time Brown won the Big 12 title was 2005, and he didn't stop there. The Vince Young-led Longhorns went to Pasadena and won a national championship.
On Saturday, Texas needed some late-game magic after Nebraska went on its longest drive of the game -- 43 yards -- to set up a 42-yard field goal to make it 12-10 with 1:44 remaining.
But immediately, things happened in the Longhorns' favor.
Nebraska's kickoff went out of bounds, giving Texas the ball at its own 40-yard line without any time going off the clock. A pass from Colt McCoy to his favorite receiver -- roommate Jordan Shipley -- was followed by a 15-yard penalty for what officials called a horse collar, putting Texas at the Nebraska 26.
That's when things got a little crazy. After running a few plays up the middle, Texas broke the huddle for a third-down play with 15 seconds remaining. Just before McCoy took the snap, Brown said he was trying to call timeout, but the officials didn't hear him. So McCoy started the play and rolled to his right, the seconds ticking down.
"If I would have gotten the edge, I would have run for a couple, got Hunter in the middle and called timeout," said McCoy, who didn't see anything and threw it away. "When I saw everybody rushing the field, I thought, 'There's no way. We've got one or two seconds left.' It was close."
The whole game was close thanks to stellar defense by both teams. Suh and several of his defensive teammates gobbled up real estate in the Texas backfield. Nebraska had nine sacks, and Suh's 4½ were a Big 12 title game record and more than Texas had given up in one game this year. (Oklahoma had four.)
"We're best friends," McCoy joked about Suh.
Texas' defense was even better. After the Texas A&M offense feasted on the Longhorns defense on Thanksgiving for more than 500 yards of total offense, the unit bounced back in a big way. They held Nebraska to just 106 yards of total offense, an average of 1.9 yards per play. Nebraska managed just five first downs -- including a 22-minute span without one -- and a measly 39 yards passing. Nebraska was 2-for-16 on third downs and had three turnovers.
"Last week, that wasn't our standard, not taking anything from A&M," said UT defender Sergio Kindle, a Dallas native. "Out here, we played pretty good on defense. We got back to our standards. Practice pays off, as you can see."
They'll need a similar defensive effort against SEC champion Alabama if the Longhorns want to earn a second national title in five seasons next month in Pasadena. As for the offense, that still needs some work.
But when McCoy and his squad needed to make some plays late, they did.
"To be an undefeated team at 13-0, you have to win in different ways," Brown said. "You saw this offense run up and down the field last week, and the defense struggled. You saw the offense do enough to win [Saturday]. The defense played great.
"This team has been one of those that they just figure out a way to win."
For the returning players, Saturday's win brought them some redemption after they were left out of the league championship game as part of the three-way tie in the Big 12 South last year. Brown said one player mentioned in the locker room that the team could quit talking about .0128, the BCS margin Oklahoma had over Texas to get in the Big 12 title game in 2008.
TCU will get to learn that feeling. The Frogs have their own number to think about now: one.
One second that didn't officially tick off the clock, keeping them out of the title game.
Richard Durrett covers college sports for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.