Sat Oct 16 06:57pm EDT
Texas 20, Nebraska 13. So much for Garrett Gilbert's golden arm: The hyped sophomore was a woeful 4-of-16 passing against Nebraska's vaunted secondary, the worst possible afternoon for the guy who looked like the most important man on the field for the Longhorns coming in. And he still was, as it turns out. But who would have guessed Gilbert's legs would steal the show?
Of course, that was supposed to be Taylor Martinez's role. But where the previously ponderous Gilbert came out running on the Longhorns' early scoring drives and ran in both of their touchdowns en route to finishing as the game's leading rusher on yards (72) and yards per carry (6.5), it was a myth-busting afternoon for the Cornhuskers' blazing freshman: Off his star-making turn at Kansas State, Martinez was held to just 34 yards rushing on a long of 14, with a predictably limp day as a passer – no thanks to his suddenly butterfingery receivers.
This was the offense Nebraska fans feared throughout the offseason, that relegated the 'Huskers to the fringes of the national championship chatter before Martinez's supernova emergence over the first five games thrust them into it. Here, the most explosive attack in the Big 12 to date suddenly reverted back to the pedestrian outfit that came up short against the Longhorns last December: 213 total yards, six three-and-outs, zero touchdowns. In the defining game of the season, the great leap forward under Martinez was last year's offense.
On the other side, though, the triumph of Texas' defense was about as dramatic. This was last year's D, the most smothering in the nation against the run; it was the D that handcuffed Texas Tech in September, before back-to-back flops against UCLA and Oklahoma threatened to send the season hurtling out into the abyss. When the UT offense shrunk back into a shell in the second half – four punts, a short-field field goal and a clock-killing drive to close it out – the defense kept the 'Huskers completely at bay. Again.
In the big picture, a relatively comfortable road win over a top-five rival is a pretty good way to ward off the demons encroaching on the Longhorns over the last two weeks. With the possible exception of Oklahoma State (in Austin), there's no obvious hurdle on the remaining schedule that will keep them from hitting ten wins for the tenth year in a row. This was a key test for a young outfit facing longer odds – Nebraska came in as a 10-point favorite – than any Texas team has encountered in a long, long time, and it passed with honors.