En route to beating the Cornhuskers 20-13 on Saturday, the Longhorns avoided making the major mistakes that doomed them in their previous two games in which they combined for seven turnovers and 17 penalties.
After stopping the Nebraska offense on its first possession on three plays, cornerback Curtis Brown came out to return a punt.
Off of a booming punt from Nebraska’s Alex Henery, Brown mishandled the ball as it fell to the ground around the 23-yard line of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Having crucial fumbles lost on punt returns in both of the Longhorns past two games — rare back-to-back losses to UCLA and Oklahoma — Longhorn fans were probably on the edge of throwing their remote controls through the television in frustration.
But before Longhorn fans could rip all of their hair out, Brown was able to quickly pick the ball up and return it 24 yards — setting up solid field position for the Longhorns who, eight plays later, got three points off a Justin Tucker field goal, giving them a lead they would not give up.
Texas managed to not turn the ball over and only had four turnovers, enabling them to upset fifth-ranked Nebraska.
With the win, the Longhorns returned to both The Associated Press and USA Today Coach’s polls on Sunday after a two-week absence, ranking 22nd in both. They also placed 19th in the debut of this year’s BCS poll.
While the Longhorns managed to avoid losing its third straight game, they remain in the race for a Big 12 South title. They will need to win the remainder of their games and get some help from other teams to set up a possible rematch with the Cornhuskers.
Winning the rest of their games is easier said than done, though, and head coach Mack Brown is making sure to remind his team about that before the Longhorns take on Iowa State at home this Saturday.
“I told them this is a waste unless we go back and win next week,” Brown said after the win. “We’ve got to continue to get better because we are not at a point where we can play poorly and beat anybody, so we’re going to have to play well each week to win.”
It will definitely help for them to get better each game, but what is most important is that they don’t shoot themselves in the foot like they had against UCLA and Oklahoma. It almost happened again with Nebraska when they brought back a Texas punt 95 yards for a scoring, cutting the deficit to seven.
The Longhorns are capable of finishing the season undefeated. Five of the remaining six games are at home. And even though they may not win those games by blowing out the opponent, a win is a win.
It appears that Texas will need to rely on its defense to shut down other teams. They completely silenced the Cornhusker offense, which prior to their matchup with Texas, destroyed everything in sight. They stopped a Heisman Trophy contender that no one else could stop.
“We had the two losses the past two weeks and we wanted to get that taste out of our mouths, and thankfully we did this week,” said defensive end Sam Acho.
The taste of defeat is gone and winning is in the air. Texas is back on the right track and all is right in the world.