LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Texas left no doubt this time. The Longhorns beat Nebraska fair and square.
Garrett Gilbert ran for two touchdowns and Texas’ defense shut down Taylor Martinez to lead the Longhorns to a 20-13 upset of No. 5 Nebraska on Saturday, a crushing first defeat for a Cornhusker team that was out to avenge last year’s loss in the Big 12 championship game.
Texas (4-2, 2-1 Big 12 came in as a 9 1/2-point underdog but surprised Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) by turning Gilbert loose in the run game for the first time this season. The quarterback ran for a 71 yards on 11 carries, scoring from 3 yards and 1 yard, and Cody Johnson had 58 of his 73 yards in the second half.
The Longhorns also stymied a Nebraska offense that had been averaging 494 yards a game, holding the Huskers to just 202 yards. Still, the Huskers were within a touchdown late in the game thanks to Eric Hagg’s school-record 95-yard punt return.
Martinez, who came in averaging 147 yards a game and almost 11 yards a carry, was held to a season-low 21 yards on 13 carries before being pulled for Zac Lee in the third quarter.
Texas certainly wasn’t prolific offensively, gaining 271 yards. But with the Longhorn defense holding the Huskers’ ground game in a check, Nebraska receivers then dropped what would have been three touchdown passes.
The Huskers and their fans had been pointing to this game for 10 months, since the controversial finish to last year’s conference title game ended with one second put back on the clock, enough time for the Longhorns to kick the winning field goal in a 13-12 win.
The stakes became even higher after Nebraska announced over the summer that it was moving to the Big Ten next year.
Suddenly, this became the Huskers’ last chance to beat a Texas program that had dominated them since the inception of the Big 12.
Barring a rematch in the conference championship game, Texas will have won nine of 10 meetings against the Huskers since 1996, with Nebraska’s only win coming in the 1999 title game.
The Memorial Stadium crowd came to life after Hagg returned Justin Tucker’s pooch punt 95 yards to pull the Huskers to 20-13 with 3:02 left. Jared Crick bumped Blake Gideon out of the way after Hagg fielded the punt, and LaVonte David’s block on Alex Okafor removed the final obstacle to Nebraska’s first touchdown in eight quarters against the Longhorns.
Texas was able to run out the clock, however, with Gilbert taking a knee twice inside the Nebraska 10.
Martinez came into the game drawing attention as a Heisman candidate but was thrown for losses or no gain on four of his first 11 runs and was ineffective on the zone-read option. He was pulled in the third quarter in favor of Lee, who quarterbacked the Huskers in the Big 12 title game.
Martinez took an intentional grounding penalty on his first pass attempt, threw behind and short of his receivers and fumbled twice, though he or a teammate recovered each.
The Huskers also were victimized by drops. A wide-open Rex Burkhead couldn’t hang on to what would have been a 30-yard TD in the second quarter. Niles Paul dropped what would have been an 11-yard score in the third quarter and Brandon Kinnie what would have been a 38-yarder in the fourth.
The Longhorns led 10-0 after Keenan Robinson recovered Roy Helu Jr.’s fumble at the Nebraska 21. Gilbert bounced off safety Rickey Thenarse for 10 yards before he faked a reverse handoff to receiver John Chiles and jogged into the end zone untouched from 3 yards.
Texas made it 17-3 after Thenarse called for a 15-yard facemask and then failed to wrap up on a tackle, allowing Fozzy Whittaker to turn a short pass into a 41-yard gain. Gilbert sneaked over the goal line from the 1 three plays later.
A late hit by Mathew May on Curtis Brown’s punt return and pass interference on Prince Amukamara set up Justin Tucker’s second field goal, a 28-yarder that put the Longhorns up 20-3 in the third quarter.
Texas’ John Gold pinned Nebraska at its 3 and 6 in the third quarter with rugby-style punts of 55 and 67 yards into the wind.
Lee, who was No. 3 on the depth chart as recently as last week, came on to lead the Huskers on a 16-play, 83-yard drive that ended with Alex Henery’s 28-yard field goal to pull the Huskers within 14 points.
With the upset, Texas avoided losing three straight regular-season games for the first time in Mack Brown’s 13 years as head coach.
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