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October 21, 2006
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LINCOLN, Neb. ? Options. It's great to have options.
Texas football coach Mack Brown knows this all to well. The No. 5 Longhorns were in danger of being upset by Nebraska on Saturday, largely because kicker Greg Johnson ?who was hobbled by a sore quadriceps - had missed field goals from 39 and 31 yards and had an extra point blocked.
So, with the Longhorns (6-1) trailing by a point and setting up for a 22-yard field goal attempt from the right hash mark that would produce a 22-20 victory, Brown sent in sophomore walk-on Ryan Bailey - who had never kicked a field goal in college.
Bailey is now 1-for-1 and the Longhorns are 7-1.
"We changed the kicker at the end not because Greg missed two," Brown said. "He said his leg tightened up on him. Ryan Bailey is a young man we planned on kicking last week (against Baylor)."
Before his game-winning kick, Brown compared Bailey to Dusty Mangum. Mangum kicked a game-winning field goal on the last play of the game against Michigan in the Rose Bowl two years ago.
"I told him that he was the luckiest guy in the world because he had a chance to be a hero like Dusty Mangum, but it took Dusty Mangum fours to do it and he could do it with one kick," Brown said.
Bailey did, and just minutes after the kick his cell phone was continuously buzzing - though he wasn't answering yet.
He was too busy answering the media's questions.
Bailey, who is from Austin, is an Advertising major who only kicked 10 field goals in high school, though one was from 47 yards. He sent the Texas coaches a tape of him kicking and was invited to walk-on two years ago.
At least one of his teammates wasn't aware he had walked on the field as Texas lined up for the game-winner.
"I didn't know who was going to kick it until (Nebraska) took a time out," Texas guard Justin Blalock said. "Then I said, 'Oh, they're going to let Bailey kick."
Bailey, who reportedly has not missed any field goal attempts in practice, was as surprised as anybody.
"I had no idea (I'd kick)," he said. "I was just here for the ride."
Even though snow flurries were blowing into his face and the game was on the line, Bailey said he was unfazed when Nebraska coach Bill Callahan called a time out and then challenged a call in an effort to freeze him.
"That didn't bother me at all," he said. "I just stayed calm."
Back in Austin, it's doubtful anybody who knew him was calm. Bailey said his mother was in New York, but his dad was at home watching the game on TV with friends.
And his girlfriend? Well, he doesn't have one. Not yet, anyway.
"He's gonna have a girlfriend," defensive end Tim Crowder said. "He's going to have to choose now."
Again, it's good to have options.
First things first
Nebraska, which entered the game having outscored opponents 69-7 in the first quarter, added to its dominance by outscoring the Longhorns 7-3 in the opening period.
A 22-yard Greg Johnson field goal two minutes into the game accounted for the first points Nebraska has allowed in the first quarter since Southern California's Dwayne Jarrett caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the third game of the season.
Purify's catch was the ninth first quarter touchdown for the Cornhuskers this season. However, Nebraska failed to score a touchdown on its first possession for the first time in four games.
Making them count
Purify's long touchdown grab was his 16th catch of the season. While that isn't a big number, almost all have been big catches.
It was Purify's third touchdown catch and his 15th that accounted for either a score or a first down.
Purify only had one more catch the rest of the game, but it covered 21 yards for a first down.
No lucky play
A 25-yard touchdown pass by Nebraska I-back Marlon Lucky, which temporarily staked the Cornhuskers to a 20-19 lead, wasn't just a lucky break.
Lucky is the Cornhuskers leading rusher, so when he took the pitch the Texas defense converged and left Nate Swift uncovered in the end zone.
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan had an idea that play would work in practice this week.
"We worked with it," he said. "You saw a few of the toss sweeps that were executed earlier in the game, and the pursuit really came down hill. That's kind of a complimentary play to take advantage of an over-pursuing secondary that's been stepping up to force the run."
However, the Texas secondary played better on a two-point conversion attempt and intercepted a Taylor pass, which allowed the Longhorns to stay within a point and enabled them to win with a field goal.
Texas receiver Limas Sweed is never mentioned as an All-American candidate, but perhaps he should be.
Against Nebraska, the 6-foot-4 junior had eight catches for a career-high 119 yards and a 55-yard touchdown. For the year that gives him 35 receptions for 595 yards and nine touchdowns, which compares very favorably with some of the nation's more heralded receivers.
Sweed has caught at least one touchdown pass in each of the Longhorns last six games and has scored in seven of Texas' eight games.
See you again soon?
The Longhorns and Cornhuskers could square off again in a little bit more than a month.
Texas (7-1, 4-0 in the Big 12) leads the South Division, while Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) is tied with Missouri. The Tigers defeated Kansas State on Saturday for first place in the North.
Texas, which has games remaining against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas A&M, is favored to win the South Division.
Nebraska has games remaining against Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Colorado.
Nebraska and Texas have met twice in the Big 12 championship game with Texas prevailing in 1996 and the Cornhuskers winning in 1999.
Advantage, Longhorns defense
The game matched the Cornhuskers running offense, which ranked No. 11 in the nation, against the Texas defense. Entering the game, the Longhorns ranked No. 2 in the country against the run.
Texas got the best of the matchup, holding Nebraska to 38 rushing yards for a 1.6 average per attempt. Although that number was enhanced by the Longhorns' recording four sacks for 29 yards in losses, Brandon Jackson was Nebraska's leading rusher with 40 yards on seven carries.
"It's always frustrating when you can't get the running game going because the running game and the passing game go hand-in-hand," said I-back Cody Glenn, who rushed for just 6 yards on four carries. "It wasn't so much what they were doing as what we were doing. We missed a block here or there. We were always one person away from a breakaway every play."
Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, who led Texas to the national championship last season, took advantage of his bye week in the NFL schedule and was on the Longhorns sideline. ? Texas' Quan Cosby had a 78-yard return on the opening kickoff, which was the longest of his career and the longest for the Longhorns this season. ? Texas now has posted 19 consecutive Big 12 Conference victories and has won 27 of its last 28 true road games - as well as 11 of its last 12 against ranked opponents. ? With 15 completions, Taylor became the Huskers' career leader with 359 completions. He exceeded the previous record of 353 set by David Humm from 1972 to 1974. ? Linebacker Steve Octavien played for the first time since the Cornhuskers faced USC on Sept. 16 and recorded a career-high 10 tackles - including seven solo stops. He also had two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and broke up a pass.