LINCOLN — In a stomach-churning minute, the Nebraska football team went from dejection to jubilation to down in the dumps again.
It was a microcosm of this unpredictable season, the Huskers' 27-24 loss to No. 7 Texas on Saturday night. The story kept changing.
The Nebraska football team's 26-game home winning streak came crashing down in dramatic fashion, and the talk today probably won't be about Jammal Lord's inspired game or the Huskers' moxy.
It'll probably focus on Coach Frank Solich's decision to go for the end zone-and the win-with 10 seconds left and a record crowd of 78,268 holding its collective breath.
Lord's pass fell into the outstretched hands of Nathan Vasher, and the Longhorns stormed the field in celebration. All Nebraska was left with was a dead-silent stadium and a 6-4 record.
"I feel badly for our players," said Solich, whose team dropped to 2-3 in the Big 12. "I thought they played their hearts out. They put themselves in position to win the game.
"The decision to not kick the field goal was a soul-searching decision. Certainly if I had to do it all over again, I would do it."
Character wasn't an issue in this 31/2-hour classic. Neither was confidence.
Lord was the catalyst for it all, really, as the junior from Bayonne, N.J., ran for 234 yards, passed for another 98, and had the crowd on its feet with 14:31 to play, when he connected with freshman Matt Herian for a 60-yard touchdown to cut the Longhorns' lead to 20-17.
The game was just getting started. Texas (8-1, 4-1) marched 81 yards for a touchdown that had "game over" written all over it with 3:24 to play, then Lord took the team on a 50-second, 60-yard spin into the end zone.
Just when it looked as if Texas had this one wrapped up-again-when Roy Williams caught a Chris Simms pass for what appeared to be the final first down with 1:31 left, a late flag flew into the night.
Williams was called for offensive pass interference, and the Longhorns were forced to punt with just under a minute to go.
Texas Coach Mack Brown was fuming on the sidelines, especially when DeJuan Groce's punt return put Nebraska on the UT 16 and the skyboxes started shaking.
Lord was stopped at the line of scrimmage on the first play, and then, with no timeouts, he was forced to spike the ball.
With 16 ticks left, Solich left kicker Josh Brown on the sidelines to cool his cleats while Lord fired for the end zone. For the second time of the night, Vasher came up with an interception.
When asked if the game-ending developments were frustrating, Brown said, "Extremely."
"But that was coach's decision. Big things were happening at the end, we were trying to ride the momentum out. But it seemed like the bottom fell out on us."
At least the Huskers could take solace in the fact that this wasn't like the other losses to ranked teams, the stompings at Penn State and Iowa State. When Chris Simms and Co. fired at the Huskers, Nebraska fired back.
Simms had a critic-silencing night, completing 29 of 47 passes for 419 yards. Williams caught 13 of those passes for 161 yards.
But the Blackshirts came up with a couple of big stops at the end, enough to put Nebraska in position to win.
"This team and this defense has a tremendous resolve," NU Defensive Coordinator Craig Bohl said.
"If I sound like I'm a little emotional about it, I am. We're very proud of the way they stayed in the fight. They did not give up and they will not give up."
They didn't give up with 3:24 to go, when Cedric Benson's touchdown gave Texas what seemed like an insurmountable 10-point lead. It was the second straight week the Huskers stormed back for some second-half drama. Last week, they fell behind by 17 before rallying for a 38-31 win.
"We did a great job most of the game," Lord said. "But when the team needed me the most, I didn't come through for them."
Lord has come a long way in a couple of weeks. After the Iowa State game on Sept. 28, his job was opened up the next week in practice. By the end of Saturday, when the Huskers rolled up 418 yards of total offense, there was little question that the job was always Lord's.
If Nebraska is a team on the decline, you couldn't tell it from the Longhorns' celebration at the end. Maybe it was because the home streak was over, to the same team that snapped a 47-game run in 1998.
Maybe it's because, as Texas Coach Mack Brown said earlier in the week, Nebraska may be back.
"I said before the game that this was the best non-rated team in America," Brown said. "I'll stand by that statement tonight."
|Yards per carry||2.2||6.8|
Nebraska is 4-10 all-time against Texas.
|Arizona State||Aug. 24|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Aug. 31|
|Utah State||Sept. 7|
|Penn State||Sept. 14|
|Iowa State||Sept. 28|
|McNeese State||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 19|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 26|
|Kansas State||Nov. 16|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Nov. 2. See them all »
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