After hearing the No. 3 Cornhuskers talk for a week about avenging a home loss to Texas a year ago, Major Applewhite threw for two second-half touchdowns today to rally the 18th-ranked Longhorns to a 24-20 victory over Nebraska.
"We knew it was important to do our talking on the field," Applewhite said. "We knew it wouldn't do any good to do any talking before the game."
Texas has won three straight over Nebraska since the merger of the Big Eight and Southwest conferences before the 1996 season. Texas (6-2, 3-1 Big 12) is one of two teams to beat Nebraska (6-1, 3-1) three times in the '90s. Florida State defeated the Cornhuskers in bowl games in 1990, 1993 and 1994.
The loss seriously damages Nebraska's bid for the national championship and dropped the Cornhuskers a game behind Kansas State in the North Division race for a berth in the Big 12 title game.
"You can say we're jinxed, have bad luck, but we just have to eliminate mistakes," said Dan Alexander, who led Nebraska with 136 yards on 21 carries. "Maybe the national championship is out of reach but you never know in football."
Nebraska led 20-17 after quarterback Eric Crouch's nine-yard touchdown run with 7 minutes 52 seconds left before Applewhite drove Texas 60 yards in four plays for the winning score.
After hitting wideout Ryan Nunez with a 39-yard pass to the Nebraska 21, Applewhite found tight end Mike Jones in the flat. Jones broke three tackles, including one at the goal line, in completing a 17-yard scoring play.
Applewhite was 9 of 21 for 47 yards in the first half as Nebraska built a 13-3 lead. He was 8 of 9 in the second half for 166 yards.
"I played like I was in Pop Warner in the first half. It's just a matter of getting into a rhythm," Applewhite said.
His 13-yard strike to Kwame Cavil in the third quarter gave Texas its first lead at 17-13.
Tailback Hodges Mitchell had 20 carries for 83 yards and three receptions for 45 yards. Crouch passed for 204 yards but was held to 35 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Nebraska players had talked all week about beating Texas and avenging last year's 20-16 loss that ended the Cornhuskers' 47-game home winning streak.
Nebraska appeared to take control early, scoring on three consecutive possessions for a 13-3 halftime lead.
Josh Brown kicked field goals of 22 and 32 yards, and running back Correll Buckhalter broke a tackle and carried a Texas defender into the end zone on a five-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds left in the half.
With Texas forced to punt into a stiff wind, two of the Cornhuskers' scoring drives started at the Longhorns 17 and 31.
Texas, which drove 46 yards on its first possession to set up a field goal attempt that bounced off the left upright, managed five first downs in the first half. After the first drive, Nebraska held Texas to three-and-out on the next five possessions.
The Texas defense kept it close by forcing three Nebraska turnovers on fumbles, two by Crouch and one by Buckhalter at the Texas 1 that cost the Cornhuskers a fourth-quarter touchdown.