Slowly thawing out from today's freezing, blustery game... a most entertaining game that will go down as a classic. Like any classic, both teams had their opportunities, and it came down to the end of the game.
A lot of folks want to blame Terrence Nunn for today's loss, but that's not exactly fair. Nunn had a bad game, but Nebraska had plenty of opportunities to win this game. Personally, my heart sunk when I saw Zac Taylor drop back to pass on 3rd and 4 with just over 2 minutes to go, as I felt it was a bad call at that point in the game. Texas was out of timeouts, so "pound the rock". Yes, it was likely to come up short, but the clock will continue to run. The wind was at the Huskers back, so it was likely that Texas would get the ball around their own 20 with 2 minutes left and no timeouts. Could they drive the field against the wind? Personally, I think it was a bad call, but not Callahan's worst of the game.
My vote for the worst call of the game was near the end of the 1st quarter. NU has a 2nd and 1 at their own 45 yard line, and a fierce wind at their back. 2nd and 1 is kind of like the ultimate "free pass" in football; you can try just about anything and if it doesn't work (and you don't screw it up completely), you still have a 3rd and short. What does Callahan do? Line up in a power formation (signalling that you are going to play it conservative) and hand it off to Cody Glenn, who gets hit in the backfield.
All in all, I thought Callahan's game plan stunk in the first half for the most part. Except for Maurice Purify's long touchdown catch (aided by a double whiff by the Texas secondary), the Husker offense was mostly inept. Lining up mostly in power formations, Texas could afford to stack the line and stop both the run as well as the short passes to the tight ends.
But I loved Callahan's changes at halftime. And no, I don't believe the claims that "we didn't change anything at halftime". (Where did the 3 tight-end formations go then?) He opened up the game and showed some balance. In the first half, Callahan called for runs 6 out of 7 times, and the offense sputtered before getting to "2 minute offense" time. In the second half, Callahan called passes 7 out of 11 times on 1st down to open up the offense and start moving the ball.
I call Callahan's playcalling unpredictably predictable. Frequently Callahan tips his hand and goes "run, run, run" or "pass, pass, pass", but only rarely "run, pass, pass, run" and mixing it up play-by-play. In the 2nd half, we got more of the latter, and the Huskers got back into the game.
And when I start getting frustrated about Callahan's conservative playcalling, he'll pull a double reverse or an I-back pass out of his bag of tricks. Go figure.
Special teams were a key part of today's game. If Nebraska had won today, the blame easily could have been pointed at Greg Jackson who missed 2 field goals and had an extra point blocked. But Mack Brown switched to a walkon freshman kicker, who drilled the game winner in his first action in college football. Even after Bill Callahan tried to ice him by calling a timeout and then challenging the play before to drag things out even further. (Nice call, Coach. A review of a play via instant replay usually takes 2 minutes or more; far more than a timeout. Us fans in the south stadium were wondering what the heck Callahan was challenging until we realized that he just wanted to let the kid think about the kick a whole lot longer.)
On Nebraska's side, Nebraska's problems with kickoffs nearly led to disaster. Despite having a stiff tail-wind, Jordan Congdon was unable to get the opening kick anywhere near the endzone and Texas returned it to the NU 10. Congdon may have an NFL accurate leg, but he simply doesn't have the leg strength to drive the ball into the endzone. Hopefully we'll see more of Jake Wesch on kickoffs the rest of the season; Wesch did a nice job last year as the kickoff specialist.
In any event, today's game might have been just round 1. Even the Texas players and coaches expect to meet again in Kansas City. Last time we heard talk like that was after the 2001 Nebraska-Oklahoma game, and that season, neither team made it to the championship game after each got upset after Thanksgiving.