ARLINGTON, Texas — Nebraska came within one second of costing Texas a shot at the national championship and making a big ol’ mess of the BCS.
But one second — one second that had to be put back on the game clock — was all the Longhorns needed.
Hunter Lawrence kicked a 46-yard field goal as time expired Saturday night to give Texas a 13-12 win over Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. It came after the Huskers had stormed the field with the clock reading :00 in what they thought was an improbable upset.
Instead, the Huskers look headed for the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30, most likely against Arizona. That is the team they played in 1998, their only other appearance in the San Diego bowl.
Meanwhile, Nos. 2 and 3 Texas (13-0) advances to play Alabama (13-0) — a matchup almost thwarted first by a late Husker field goal and then by the Longhorns’ own unbelievable carelessness with the final seconds.
On third-and-13 from the NU 29-yard line, Colt McCoy took a snap with about eight seconds left, rolled right and finally threw a pass out of bounds. As it sailed over the sideline, the Cowboys Stadium clock kept running to zeroes.
After officials removed everybody from the field and reviewed the play, they put it back at :01.
“I knew there was a second left,’’ Texas coach Mack Brown said. “Colt knows what he was doing. He thought there was two seconds left instead of one. So I never felt that there wasn't any time left on the clock.’’
Nebraska (9-4) wasn't able to come to terms with it so easily.
“A lot of us were upset, but if the referees felt like there was a second left on the clock, then that was their decision,’’ NU receiver Niles Paul said. “That’s pretty much all I can say about that.’’
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said no comment to the first question about the call. Then he said the only explanation he got was that the ruling came down from the replay booth.
“I’m not going to answer any more questions about officiating, about that call,’’ Pelini said. “Ask me about the football game. That was a hell of a football game.’’
Nebraska got about everything it wanted but the right result Saturday night before 76,211.
Early breaks. The first score. Field position. Amazing defense. And two fourth-quarter chances, both of which resulted in Alex Henery field goals.
The latter was a 42-yard kick with 1:44 remaining for a 12-10 lead.
“Our formula was to hang in there and have a chance to win,’’ Pelini said. “And we had a chance to win at the end.’’
Two things happened to snatch the game away from the Huskers.
First, the kickoff by Adi Kunalic rolled out of bounds, allowing Texas to start from its 40-yard line. Next, a 19-yard pass from McCoy to Jordan Shipley on first down was followed by a 15-yard personal foul on safety Larry Asante for a horse-collar tackle.
After having first down at the NU 26, Texas ran the ball twice before McCoy flirted with a second or two that could have been devastating had the time slipped away.
McCoy finished the game completing 20 of 36 passes for just 184 yards, and was intercepted three times and sacked nine. The last of those interceptions by Dejon Gomes with 4:56 left led to the Huskers’ go-ahead drive.
Zac Lee started the drive by running 17 yards to the Husker 48. Lee added a 16-yard pass to Brandon Kinnie on third-and-4 to put Nebraska in field goal range.
Those were two of only a handful of offensive highlights for the Husker offense, which produced just 106 total yards — its lowest total of the past quarter-century.
Led by Ndamukong Suh, however, the NU defense held Texas to 202.
In need of something good to happen at the start, Nebraska got it Saturday night.
Texas was flagged for a chop block on the first snap of the game and McCoy was intercepted immediately after throwing a 25-yard shovel pass to Tre’ Newton. Nebraska defensive end Pierre Allen tipped the pass at the line and Eric Hagg picked it off.
The Huskers converted that turnover into a 45-yard field goal by Henery. Two series later, another interception by Prince Amukamara set up a 52-yard field goal by Henery, a record distance for the Big 12 championship game.
McCoy, who had thrown just one interception in his previous five games, had two in his first six passes against NU.
Texas never got past its own 35-yard line on any of its first five offensive series. McCoy completed back-to-back passes just once in the Horns’ first seven possessions. And UT never took a snap in Husker territory until after a short NU punt with 7:00 left before halftime.
That also happened to be the break the Longhorns needed to gain their 7-6 halftime lead.
Taking over on the NU 42 after a 31-yard punt by Henery, McCoy had completions of 13 yards to Shipley and 16 yards to Malcolm Williams. And when it looked as if the drive might stall at the 18, Eric Hagg was called for pass interference in the end zone.
Two plays later, McCoy barely got into the end zone on a 2-yard run with 2:19 left.
Texas’ offensive problems actually paled in comparison with Nebraska’s. The Huskers managed just 33 yards in the first quarter — and in the second, Zac Lee was 0 for 3 with a sack by Sam Acho that left NU with negative yards rushing.
Nebraska had started its first series of the second quarter at the Texas 37 after Eric Martin partially blocked a punt. But Lee was intercepted on first down by Aaron Williams as the Huskers tried to go right to the end zone.
|Yards per carry||0.5||1.9|
Nebraska is 4-10 all-time against Texas.
|Florida Atlantic||Sept. 5|
|Arkansas State||Sept. 12|
|Virginia Tech||Sept. 19|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 17|
|Iowa State||Oct. 24|
|Kansas State||Nov. 21|
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