Big 12

Huskers horned yet again

LINCOLN, Neb. —The book is closed on a regular-season rivalry between storied programs as conference members. But the ending didn't change.

Texas, as always, beats Nebraska.

The Longhorns' mastery of the Cornhuskers started in the first year of Big 12 competition and continued until their last scheduled meeting, this time 20-13.

This wasn't supposed to happen for several reasons. Fifth-ranked Nebraska entered the game 5-0 and this home victory would mark the halfway point juncture toward a perfect season as national championship hopes were beginning to swell in Big Red land.

Unranked Texas had removed itself from any such conversation with successive losses for only the fifth time in coach Mack Brown's 13 seasons with the Longhorns.

But Brown wasn't buying the script. The Longhorns might not know how to beat UCLA, but they can quote chapter and verse on defeating Nebraska. Saturday makes nine victories in 10 meetings as Big 12 partners, including two of three in the championship game.

Brown believed Texas held the advantage on Saturday because Nebraska and redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez hadn't met an opponent of Texas' caliber.

"We knew he was really good, and we knew they were really good, but we felt like that hadn't played players, except for maybe Kansas State, that had the foot speed, that could chase him like we have," Brown said.

Plus, yeah, the Huskers were undefeated and Texas had lost two. But Brown didn't see much difference between the squads that met in last year's title game, won by the Longhorns 13-12.

"We knew it was same team we played in December without Taylor Martinez," Brown said. "We held that team to 106 yards. And we knew he was a redshirt freshman playing his biggest game at home. He had tremendous pressure on him in this game."

Physically, as well. Texas defenders stopped Martinez before he could get started. From a 241-yard rushing effort against the Wildcats last week to a 21-yard performance Saturday, Martinez wasn't a factor.

The zone read, where Martinez either stuffs the ball in the gut of a running back or keeps it based on the defense, got plugged all day because Texas dedicated an extra defender to stopping him.

"We wanted to have two sets of eyes on him every time," Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said.

A Texas defense that had given up 264 rushing yards in a lopsided home loss to UCLA held Nebraska to 202 total yards.

"And I'm the idiot who called the UCLA defense," Muschamp said.

By the middle of the third quarter, with Texas leading 20-3, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini had seen enough. He pulled Martinez in favor of Zac Lee, last year's starter.

Lee jump started the offense, and guided Nebraska on a field-goal drive that sliced the margin to 14.

"We wanted to find a spark," Pelini said.

But the offense couldn't get into the end zone and a few times Nebraska kept itself out.

Early on, Rex Burkhead swung undetected from the backfield, ran under a Martinez rainbow and dropped it near the goal line.

Wide receiver Niles Paul dropped two passes that might have scored.

"We had opportunities to make plays, and we didn't make them," Pelini said.

The game's most productive turned out to be Longhorns quarterback Garrett Gilbert, whose early bootlegs and draws befuddled the Cornhuskers.

Gilbert entered the game with 14 yards rushing on the season. But his 25-yard keeper on Texas' first possession kept alive a field-goal drive.

When running back Roy Helu fumbled away Nebraska's first play of its second possession, Gilbert channeled his inner Vince Young and capped a short drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.

"I don't know if I can compare to Vince," Gilbert said. "You can't," laughed offensive coordinator Greg Davis, sitting next to Gilbert in the postgame media session.

The game's only tense moment came with three minutes remaining. Texas lined up for a 50-yard field goal. The snap went to kicker Justin Tucker, who pooch punted. Nebraska's Eric Hagg scooped it up at the 5, weaved through traffic and his 95-yard touchdown became the longest punt return in school history.

Was magic happening for the Huskers, who had lost games to Texas in a variety of ways?

Hold the Longhorns here, get the ball back, and Nebraska could score and finally put an end to its Texas hex.

But the Longhorns recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock and the path of this series wasn't altered.

Texas won. As always.

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