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December 5, 2009
Post-game from the Big 12 title game
JERRYWORLD _ What an incredible scene after the game as Texas celebrated what will be its second appearance in the national championship game in the last five years.
There was the dogpile of Hunter Lawrence after his game-winning 46-yard field goal. It was his first ever game-winner.
(I had reported an interview with Hunter a few weeks ago him saying he'd rather the team win by 21 in a situation like this, "But if I have to kick the game winner, I'll do it ... as long as it's good," he said then. Prophetic.)
Keenan Robinson, who had a huge game with a team-lead-tying 10 tackles, was crying with joy and hugging Will Muschamp.
A worn out Chris Hall was looking for his family in the stands. Sam Acho and Emmanuel Acho were slapping hands with each other and saying, "Let's do it!!!!!"
Backup QB Sherrod Harris dogpiled TE Greg Smith at midfield and yelled, "Great snap!! No one thanks the snapper!! Great snap!!"
And after all the burnt orange confetti was shot into the air, Mack Brown said, "Thanks for hanging in there with us. Thanks to these seniors. We'll see you in Pasadena."
1. Let's start with the final-game sequence and what the coaches thought was happening, and what the players thought was happening.
Mack Brown said he thought he'd called timeout before Colt McCoy snapped the ball on UT's final offensive play. Greg Davis said he told Mack Brown when the clock got down to 13 seconds to call timeout.
"I knew there was a second left," Mack said. "I was trying to get timeout with the official, and he couldn't hear me, and it was loud. And Colt snapped the ball, and Colt knows what he's doing.
"He said, 'Coach, I threw it away. I looked at the end zone. We were trying to get five yards and get out of bounds. But I saw the clock was down enough so I threw it out of bounds.'
"He thought there were two seconds left instead of one. So I never felt there wasn't any chance there'd be time left on the clock. He's been around too long to do that."
Colt McCoy said he had a good handle on the final play, leading up to Hunter Lawrence's game-winning field goal.
"When we got the play call in, there was 15 seconds left. So I wasn't worried about it. If I would have gotten the edge, I would have run for a couple yards, got Hunter in the middle and called timeout.
"You know, we ran an out-and-up with Shipley, and obviously they had a safety over the top, and I just threw it away. I wasn't worried about the clock. I figured we'd have one or two seconds left.
"When I saw everybody rushing the field, I thought, 'There's no way. We've got one or two seconds left. It was close. But at the same time, I was just trying to get Hunter back to the middle."
Greg Davis recapped the final few plays as he was talking to Mack through the headset.
"The conversation was do we leave it on the kicker or try to score?" Davis said. "So we ran a quarterback draw and tried to pop something. Then we threw a max protection. So we were going to try a sprintout, and we were a little late getting unraveled.
"So as I looked up and the clock got to 13, I told Mack - we were talking the whole time - 'Let's go ahead and take the timeout.' So he was kind of letting the clock run, he calls timeout and they don't give it to us. I don't know if the guy didn't hear him. I just know the conversation he and I were having.
"And we both said, 'Let's go on and take it.' Even when Colt threw the ball out of bounds, I thought they had granted the timeout, and were going to see how much time should have been on the clock. From my vantage point, when the ball went out of bounds, I thought there were two seconds left."
But Davis said he was got a little nervous when he saw the clock hit zero and Nebraska's team was running around on the field in celebration.
"I wasn't frustrated until I saw the officials leaving the field," Davis said. "It was actually that they were leaving to review the final sequence. I thought they'd put two seconds back on the clock to be honest with you. But it doesn't make it easy.
"It was a little bit like Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl last year. I thought we'd made the first down easily, and they pull the chains out and we barely made it. But we knew it was going to be tight.
"Hunter Lawrence came up big. It was the first time we called on him to win one at the end. I was concerned Suh would jump up and knock it down because he's done that three times this year. And I am convinced Suh is pretty good."
Davis said the final seconds were the most harrowing of his 37 years a college football coach.
"We pride ourselves on our one-minute capabilities," Davis said. "We've won a bunch of ballgames over the years being able to score at the end of the ballgame.
"And when they kicked the field goal, Mack said, 'We've been here before. We can do this again.' And we all felt that way. I mean Colt has had eight fourth-quarter comebacks.
"So to look up and see zero-zero with as much time as we work on clock management and handling those situations, it was very harrowing, very scary.
"I did feel comfortable he had thrown the ball away in time, and they were going to put time back on the clock. But it was scary."
Bo Pelini was furious on the field, right after the game.
"Get (Big 12 commissioner) Dan Beebe in here now," Pelini shouted. "The BCS. That's why they made this call."
Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said of Texas after the game, "They ought to be ashamed to accept that trophy."
Police officers after the game said they had to rush to the parking lot to break up several fights between Texas and Nebraska fans.
Pelini and Beebe met briefly after the game, but no details of the conversation were immediately known.
Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson spoke to reporters after the game and said, "What we do as pretty much with any replay situation is first determine if the play is reviewable, which this one is because it involves a clock error at a critical time in the game.
"So we knew right away that you had the potential for when did the ball hit out of bounds, and where was the clock? So we immediately let TV know we were reviewing the play.
"TV sent us a shot where we had the flight of the ball. They superimposed the clock, and so it's by rule a question as when the ball touches something there is time on the clock, and there was. There was a second left, so we put that back up."
Mack Brown said the game will be remembered two different ways.
"I think in Lincoln, it will be the clock," Mack said. "And in Austin, it will be the comeback."
2. Hunter Lawrence had never kicked a game-winner as time expired.
Nebraska tried to ice Lawrence by calling a timeout. But with 1 second on the clock, Greg Smith delivered a perfect snap to Jordan Shipley, and Lawrence drilled a 46-yarder, changing a lot of lives in the process."Jordan helped me out a lot," Lawrence said. "He always talked to me when I'm out there and kind of calms me down. And everybody on the team was really confident.
"I knew I had to make it because their defense was playing so well, and our offense did amazing the last minute to get us a chance. I just had to make it for them."
I asked Jordan what he did to help calm Lawrence.
"Mostly, I gave him a Bible verse," Shipley said. "We've kind of bepen doing that before practice and every time we warm up.
"I think that's just kind of been something we shared over the last couple weeks. So I gave him Jeremiah 17:7, 'Blessed is a man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in him.'"
"I think we all had faith in Hunter and his ability. And I think everybody on our sideline was full of faith and confidence that he was going to make that kick."The giant screen inside Jerryworld caught Colt McCoy and Blake Gideon on a knee, praying right before Lawrence lined up for the game-winner.
"I felt like I had seen that so many times on TV, and I was just trying to pinch myself to make sure I was actually in that moment," said Blake Gideon, who recorded his fifth interception of the season and nearly added a sixth."I was on a knee next to Colt, and I kept looking at him and looking around. I couldn't figure if I should watch it or close my eyes and judge it by the fan reaction.
"But I peeked at the end, and thankfully it went through. It was wild after that. I think I circled the entire stadium."Lamarr Houston said, "The only way to sum it up is, it was like a childhood dream. Momentum shifted back and forth like 18 times. It was just a battle."
3. The Legion of Boom showed why it's one of the elite defenses in the country and the best defense at Texas since 1983.
--Lamarr Houston batted a pass that was intercepted by Roddrick Muckelroy with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
--Houston also blew up a fourth-and-1 run by Nebraska from the Texas 32 in the first quarter, that was reviewed and overturned, giving the Huskers a first down at the 31 (could not believe that call).
--Keenan Robinson played like a wild man, blowing up play after play, including a screen pass he stuffed for a 5-yard loss on third-and-10 early in the fourth quarter.
--Blake Gideon intercepted a pass deep in Texas territory and nearly had another one deep in Nebraska territory.
--Aaron Williams came up with a huge interception in the end zone after a 7-yard punt (that was blocked by Nebraska's Eric Martin) gave Nebraska a first down at the Texas 37 in the second quarter.
--Sergio Kindle had steady pressure on Zac Lee, finishing with a tackle for loss, a quarterback hurry and a pass breakup.
"Going back to last week, that wasn't our standard," Kindle said. "No offense to Texas A&M. So we got back in the film room and came out and practice pays off as you can see. We got back to our standard."
--Nebraska may have made more big plays with its defense (nine sacks, including 4.5 by Ndamukong Suh) and three interceptions of Colt McCoy. But Texas held the Huskers to a TOTAL of 106 yards (67 yards rushing on 35 attempts and 39 yards passing on 6-of-20 completions with three interceptions). Outstanding.
--Nebraska was held to three plays or less on offense on nine of its 15 possessions in the game, including eight straight possessions from the second quarter through most of the third quarter.
"We couldn't get any movement up front," Bo Pelini said. "They limited our running game. They're a good defense, formidable group, very talented, very well coached. You know, our formula was to hang in there and have a chance to win it."
--Earl Thomas may have made the play of the night for the Texas defense by knocking the ball out of Nebraska WR Niles Paul's hands at about the Texas 10-yard line with a HUGE hit on a deep pass to start the fourth quarter.
"We knew once Colt gets rolling he's hard to stop," Thomas said. "We just tried to get the ball back for him and control what we could control. We did a good job of holding them to field goals. It was a field goal game on both sides of the ball. I'm just glad we got the win."
Will Muschamp took the blame for last week's perfromance against Texas A&M and voiced a lot of pride in his players.
"We really played well up front," Muschamp said. "They've run the ball well versus everyone they've played. They're not a very dynamic passing team, obviously, but we loaded the box.
"We put a lot of pressure on our secondary to stop the run, and our players played unbelievable. Just a great comeback after our previous week's performance when we weren't very good, and that was my fault."
Muschamp said the game plan was to keep Nebraska's offensive line from getting to UT's linebackers, and he used some new fronts Nebraska had never seen.
"We had to play blockers and keep them off the second level," Muschamp said. "We did a great job of playing blocks.
"Our players did a phenomenal job of tackling, playing the ball down the field. We knew there would be some shot plays we had to handle. Again, a credit to our players."
4. Sergio Kindle may have had the funniest post-game reaction to all the events that played out with Nebraska's players and coaches on the field thinking they'd won the game before Hunter Lawrence got a chance from 46 yards to end the game.
"When we saw Colt throw the ball, it did look like there was some time left," Kindle said. "It's never good when something (the clock) is in someone other than your team's hands.
"Hopefully, we were thinking the Lord saw the clock with one second left and that the ref would stay true to his morals and give us our second back.
"After we got it, I got confidence in all our guys, from Big Toe here (Hunter Lawrence) to Big Arm Colt. Once those guys out there, we call the team automatic. And that's what they were today."
RB Tre' Newton said once it was up to Lawrence to win the game, he felt confident.
"I was just hoping the refs would put some more time back on the clock," Newton said. "I was looking up, saying, 'I thought we had more time than that.'
"When they put one second back on, I had a lot of confidence in Hunter. He's been great all season. We had confidence he was going to be automatic.
"I kept saying, 'He's automatic. He's automatic,' because that's what we call our field-goal team. 'So let's be automatic today.'
"It was a great feeling when that ball went through because we've worked hard. Starting in January with morning workouts, summer workouts, two-a-days. Just glad it all worked out, so we can get to the big game."
Fortunately, for Kirk, Malcolm Williams came through with a huge catch on third-and-16 for 20 yards to keep that drive moving.
"James ran a great route, and we had the look we were looking for," Davis said. "But he's played big for us all year, and that just happens sometimes. I was happy, as frustrating as it was, they hung in there and kept fighting. We kept playing from behind the chains."
"On that particular play, I should have come up with it," Kirkendoll said. "We got blessed. I get another chance this next game to redeem myself. But like I said, a win is a win. Each play counts in these kind of games, and you have to make big plays. We're real thankful for everything that happened, and now we just have to get ready for Alabama."
Greg Davis said he knew going into the game, that points would be hard to come by. That's why a shot down the field like the one to Kirkendoll would have been so big.
"We knew running the ball was going to be hard," Davis said. "But we didn't want to get away from running the ball because we knew that would be even make it tougher to protect.
"Then, we wanted to do some inside move routes like the one to Shipley at the end. But to do that, we were having to hold the ball because they were playing a matchup zone with a lot of man principles in the matchup zone. And we couldn't hold the ball.
"We had the double move route (to Kirkendoll), and we didn't come up with that. But I thought the drive from the 1-yard-line was huge. We were fixing to give them the ball with a short field, then he found Shipley on a little double move (for 15 yards on third-and-10 from the UT 1).
"Then they brought a blitz and he found Malcolm (for 16 yards on second-and-6 from the UT 20). Then they brought another blitz, and he found Malcolm again (for 20 yards on third-and-16 from the UT30). So even though that drive ended in a turnover, I thought that was really huge."
James Kirkendoll also touched a ball at the NU 7 that might have rolled inside the 5 on a punt in the third quarter.
Texas also gave up a 42-yard kick return in the third quarter by Niles Paul and a 43-yard punt return to Paul in the fourth quarter.
Despite getting the ball at the Nebraska 48 on the kick return, the Texas defense forced a punt.
Nebraska was able to convert Paul's punt return to the Texas 10 into a 28-yard field goal. But that was a victory for the LOB considering Nebraska's three plays from the 10 resulted in a loss of 1 yard (thanks to a tackle behind line of Rex Burkhead by Muckelroy and S Nolan Brewster).
I've never seen Mack Brown more upset during a game than when the officials ruled Marquise Goodwin down at the 1 on the kickoff return with 11:34 left in the game. Brown was on the sideline pleading his case that Goodwin did not have control of the ball when his knee was on the ground, and that Goodwin should have been allowed to pick up the ball and run.
On the drive from the 1-yard-line that went 14 plays in 6:38, Colt converted three third-down passes - on third-and-10 from the UT 1 to Shipley for 15 yards; on third-and-16 from the UT30 to Malcolm Williams for 20 yards; and on third-and-4 from the NU 44 to Marquise Goodwin for 6 yards.
I was sitting there thinking Colt McCoy is going to lead Texas on a 99-yard drive, the same way Vince Young did for the Tennessee Titans did last weekend, only this time it will be for a berth in the national title and possibly the Heisman Trophy.
The drive ended when McCoy hit Dan Buckner on the money with a first-down pass on third-and-6 from the NU 34, but Nebraska's Dejon Gomes did a great job of simply ripping the ball out of Buckner's hands with 4:56 left.
"We just had some poor luck," McCoy said. "We were really rolling when we came off the 1-yard-line. And I thought No. 7 (Gomes) made a great play on Dan. I thought Dan caught the ball for a first down, and we were still going, so I was confused when they said Nebraska ball.
"But that was a great drive coming off the goal line. And the end of the game, you just have to keep your cool.
"I walked in the huddle (when Texas took possession at its own 40, after Nebraska's kicker kicked off out of bounds, with 1:44 to play) and told the offensive line, 'It's one at a time. I love each and every one of you. Let's make it happen. Let's find a way.'
"The defense played lights out. They held Nebraska to 12 points. If you would have said going into the game that the offense couldn't score more than 12 points, I would have said we probably don't deserve to win. Today, we found a way to win, and we were truly a team."
When the dust settles for the Heisman Trophy voters, Colt McCoy has simply accomplished too much over the last seven games of the season (and, yes, over his career) not to get my vote. It would be easy to be impulsive, as some Heisman voters in attendance at the game seemed to be, and say Colt didn't play well Saturday night, so he doesn't get their vote.
But I agreed with much of what Greg Davis said when I asked him to make a case for McCoy for the Heisman after a game in which McCoy threw three interceptions.
"I would say let's be aware that he's the winningest quarterback to ever play the game," Davis said. "He's the number one quarterback in terms of completion rate to ever play the game, and let's be aware that it's the eighth fourth-quarter comeback he's had to win a game, and let's see how that stacks up.
"Tonight, he had a ball that was tipped for a pick. He threw a great ball to Dan Buckner in tight coverage that got stolen. He couldn't have placed the ball any better.
"He made a mistake on the one on the sideline (on a pass intended for James Kirkendoll that was picked by Prince Amukamara with 8:07 left in the first quarter and led to a 52-yard field goal for NU). He told me, 'Coach, I thought I had it out of bounds.' But that was a mistake. I think if you look at him and what he's done, I think it stacks up pretty good."
Three different NFL scouts at the game told me the team with the first pick in next year's draft would be crazy not to draft Suh with the No. 1 pick. And that was BEFORE the game.
Suh set a Big 12 title game record with four and a half sacks as a part of Nebraska's nine total.
His sack of McCoy for a 7-yard loss in the third quarter in which he literally threw McCoy across the field was something out of a video game.
"We thought (Gerald) McCoy at Oklahoma was as good was we've seen in years," Mack Brown said. "And Ndamukong Suh did the same tonight. He was all over the place. We just couldn't handle him.
"I tried to find him after the game to wish him good luck in the NFL because I don't want to see him again. He is really, really good and played hard all night. Thought their entire defense played well and played hard. He is a senior, right?"
Suh finished with 12 tackles, a career-high 4.5 sacks for 21 yards and six tackles for loss. He was as dejected as all the Nebraska players were during the post-game press conference.
"As far as I'm concerned, I thought the time was over. But obviously it wasn't. So they had an opportunity to kick a field goal, and from that point on our job as defensive linemen was to block it. Obviously, we didn't do that, so they ended up winning the game."
Greg Davis was worried Suh might block UT's final field goal attempt.
"He blocked three of them this year," Davis said.
That was one play Suh didn't make. Maybe the only one.
Will Muschamp, a former NFL defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, said of Suh, "Just watching the tape, we had some crossover games of common opponents where we saw him defensively, and I respect Bo (Pelini's) opinion tremendously, and I know what he thinks of Suh.
"Those guys inside are hard to find, especially high-character guys, which apparently he is, so no question he's a guy who can play in a two-gap or one-gap system.
"With so many teams in the NFL going to a three-four defense, that opens you up to another 10 or 12 teams playing a two-gap. He's an outstanding player."
There may have been a Texas offensive lineman made available to the media after the game, but I didn't see one. Chris Hall simply smiled and shook his head after the game, probably thankful it was over, and Texas had survived.
"As you get to these games, they're all going to be good," Greg Davis said. "We'll evaluate and see what the best way to attack them is, but I expect them to be really good."
Davis said you have to overcome negative situations in football, just like in life.
"Tonight reaffirmed how mentally tough our team is, especially Colt," Davis said. "Last week, was sort of a blackboard game. Everything went well, and this one wasn't . But at the same time, he never got on the head set and said, 'I can't believe we didn't make this play.' He never pointed fingers.
"It was always about, 'What can we do to make this play?' Or, 'What can we do to slow them down?' That's why we threw a couple wide receiver screens. They weren't hugely successful. We were just trying to slow the rush down.
"We did have some success with the draw shovel, and we did have some success with the quarterback draw to try to offset the way they were coming up the field. But they're really good, and Alabama will be, too."
"He's a sophomore and continues to grow and get stronger and get better at the point of attack," Muschamp said. "His strength levels are up. He's going to be a really good player. He's a very athletic, very instinctive player. But he's a sophomore.
"People just need to give him some time. He didn't play a whole lot last year. He was more of a special teams guy. He's going to keep getting better. I think the sky is the limit."
--Texas held Nebraska to 39 passing yards, the fewest in Big 12 title game history (Oklahoma held Colorado to 50 in 2004). UT held Nebraska to six completions, tied for the fewest in Big 12 title game history (Oklahoma held Colorado to six in 2002 and Texas held Nebraska to six in 1999).
--The Longhorns' three interceptions increased their total to 24 for the year, tied for sixth-best in school history.
--Sam Acho's sack was his ninth of the season.
--Blake Gideon picked off his fifth pass of the year.
--Aaron Williams picked up his third interception of the season and his second in the end zone to stop the other team from scoring (he also did it against Baylor).
"Defense goes out there for a reason," Williams said. "It doesn't matter where the ball is at. It could be on our 1-yard-line or their 1-yard-line. We gotta make plays. We gotta stop them. That's what we have to do and be physical, and we did it."
Williams said his knee, which limited him in the second half against Texas A&M, "has a month to be 100 percent, so I can't wait."
The last time Texas played Alabama was in the Cotton Bowl for the 1981 season, a 14-12 victory by the No. 6 Longhorns over the No. 3 Crimson Tide.
But the most memorable meeting came in the 1964 season between No. 5 Texas, coached by Darrell Royal, and No. 1 Alabama, coached by Bear Bryant, in the Orange Bowl. Tommy Nobis stuffed Bama QB Joe Namath on fourth-and-goal to preserve a 21-17 Texas victory.
"I know that I was excited when I got to the University of Texas to go back and study the years that Coach Royal and Coach Bryant played each other," Mack Brown said.
"The unbelievable game for guys my age at the Orange Bowl was where Joe Namath had the quarterback sneak, and Tommy Nobis knocked him out on the goal line.
"They always say now that the officials say Namath missed the goal line by this far (making the Hook 'Em Horns sign), and it was something that they told me the day I got here. I've seen Tommy Nobis tell other people that story. So I don't think there could be a better matchup than Texas and Alabama."
Will Muschamp is very familiar with Alabama's coaching staff. Nick Saban is the man Muschamp learned the most from as a young coach.
And Muschamp played in the same defensive backfield at Georgia with Bama's D-coordinator Kirby Smart. Muschamp considers Smart one of his best friends.
"I've got the utmost respect for Nick Saban as a coach," Muschamp said. "I wouldn't be where I am today if not for the opportunity he gave me (as defensive coordinator at LSU from 2002-2004 and as linebackers coach at LSU under Saban in 2001 and as the D-coordinator of the Dolphins under Saban in 2005). So I've got tremendous respect for him.
"Kirby Smart is one of my best friends, and he's an outstanding defensive coordinator. They have an outstanding staff and football team. They run the ball well. They tie in their play-actions well.
"They're going to be physical up front. They have an outstanding receiver in Julio Jones outside. Tough running backs in (Mark) Ingram and those guys. So it's going to be a game. We're going to have our work cut out for us, and we look forward to playing it."
Said Aaron Williams, "Alabama's a great team. We'll be ready."
Blake Gideon may have said it best.
"As much as I would like to say we're going to go at it as just another game and we're just going to prepare for another week," Gideon said. "It's not. This is our dream. This is what we all came to the University of Texas for is to have the opportunity to play in this kind of game.
"This is huge. We can't wait to get out there and start preparing."
--Colt McCoy improved to 45-7 as a starter, extending his own NCAA record for wins by a quarterback.
--McCoy had his school-record string (and longest active streak) of 29 straight games with a TD pass snapped.
--McCoy punted for the fourth time this season and the ninth time in his career. He pinned the opposition inside the 20 on all nine punts.
--The attendance (76,211) was the third-largest in Big 12 championship history. The Big 12 Board of Directors (presidents and chancellors) will meet in the spring to decide if they want to keep the football title game in Dallas beyond next year's game (which is slated for Jerryworld).
--For scheduling and planning, there is some serious thought being given to having the football title game at Jerryworld for several more years, while having the basketball tournaments at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. The idea is not popular with Nebraska's Tom Osborne, who will fight it. Texas having 70 percent of the crowd Saturday night probably won't help change Osborne's mind.
--Hunter Lawrence's two field goals (he was 2-of-2 from 39 and 46 yards) give him 22 for the season, tying Kris Stockton's school record set in 2000.
--Lawrence improved to 9-of-11 on attempts of 40 or more this season.
--Texas improved to 3-2 in Big 12 championship games and has now won 7 of the last 8 against Nebraska.
--UT won its third Big 12 title and its 28th conference title overall.