Big road win at Texas would prove Nebraska's back

Updated: October 31, 2003, 1:13 AM ET

AUSTIN -- Texas coach MackBrown likes to talk about swagger, usually when he thinks a team has earned the right to walk with one.

Only this week he's not talking about his Longhorns, but their opponent -- No. 12 Nebraska.

"Nebraska's got their swagger back,"Brown said of the Cornhuskers, who travel to No. 16 Texas on Saturday intent on proving that one of college football's most storied programs has indeed recovered from a dismal 2002.

"People want to know if we are for real," said Huskers linebacker Demorrio Williams. "We need to go down there and establish ourselves on the road against a good football team."

Beating Texas -- which has won four of the past five over the Huskers -- would be a huge step in continuing the recovery from last season's 7-7 finish.

Coach Frank Solich cleaned house on his staff and suffered the questions of whether or not he should even be leading the team. Since then, Nebraska (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) has steadily climbed back to the top of the standings in the Big 12 North.

A win Saturday keeps the Huskers in first place with a berth in the Big 12 title game in sight.

"When I came here in 1999, we were the traditionalists and we were very intimidating," Nebraska I-back Josh Davis said. "If you look at last year, we fell off a little bit. I think we've done a good job of trying to turn it around."

Brown is facing some of the same questions Solich did last year. Texas (6-2, 3-1) began the season ranked in the top five but losses to Arkansas and Oklahoma quickly dashed national title dreams. The 65-13 loss to Oklahoma was an embarrassment.

"We're both living in the same fish bowl,"Brown said of the expectations Longhorns and Huskers fans have for the teams and their head coaches.

And expectations are high. Nebraska (778) and Texas (772) rank third and fourth respectively in all-time NCAA wins and have won six undisputed national titles. That's why last season was so hard to swallow in Lincoln and why Texas fans are clamoring forBrown to win that elusive Big 12 title.

Nebraska may be just what Texas needs to re-establish itself this season.

Although the Cornhuskers bring one of the nation's best rushing attacks behind option quarterback Jammal Lord,Brown has trumped Solich at nearly every turn in their last few meetings.

SinceBrown's arrival in 1998, Texas has won twice in Lincoln -- both times snapping long Huskers home winning streaks -- and won 24-20 in Austin in 1999, dashing then third-ranked Nebraska's national title hopes that year. The Huskers got their revenge later that season, beating Texas in the Big 12 title game.

"They've all been great ball games," Solich said. "But yet they've come out of top more than we have. No one wants to change that any more than we do"

"In '99, I thought they were the best team in the country," Brown said. "But they turned it over something like five times."

Last year, it was Texas passing for more than 400 yards against the once-feared Blackshirts defense, and Nathan Vasher picking off a Lord pass in the final seconds to seal a 27-24 victory.

Although Lord had rushed for 234 yards and a field goal would have sent the game into overtime, Nebraska tried to pass and it cost the Huskers dearly.

"I know right now they're really out to get us," said Texas defensive tackle Rod Wright. "Revenge is in their heart."

Nebraska players say they're thinking more about trying to win a conference title. And Lord says he's left that game far behind.

"It is over with and it is a new year," Lord said. "There is a new Texas team and a new Nebraska team."

Really, though, both would prefer to be the Huskers and Horns of old.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index