For more than a year, the Texas Longhorns agonized over falling 1 second short of getting into the Big 12 and national-championship games.
ARLINGTON, Texas — For more than a year, the Texas Longhorns agonized over falling 1 second short of getting into the Big 12 and national-championship games.
This season, they’re conference champions and headed to the BCS title game because a video replay showed they still had 1 second left.
Given a chance for one last play, Hunter Lawrence nailed a 46-yard field goal as time expired for good, giving a roughed-up Colt McCoy and the Longhorns a 13-12 victory over No. 21 Nebraska in the Big 12 championship on Saturday night and a spot in the BCS final against Alabama.
“We had so many things not go our way tonight,” McCoy said, “but we found a way.”
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A loss to Texas Tech with a second left in 2008 kept the Longhorns out of the Big 12 and national championship games, letting in a team they’d beaten by 10 on a neutral field. That grueling memory helped convince McCoy to return for his senior season and drove this club all year. In fact, back in July, Texas coach Mack Brown said: “Obviously, the only thing Colt wants is to be 1 second better.”
The Cornhuskers rushed the field thinking they’d pulled off the upset when McCoy threw a pass out of bounds and the clock inside Cowboys Stadium showed all zeros. The victory would’ve given them a spot in a BCS bowl and revenge for a Texas upset in the 1996 title game that kept the Cornhuskers from playing for the national championship.
But officials immediately asked for a replay.
According to Walt Anderson, the Big 12 supervisor of officials, they were able to superimpose the clock over the replay of McCoy’s pass, and they clearly saw 1 second left when the ball hit the railing of a luxury suite about 15 yards behind the sideline. The rules say the clock runs until the ball hits something.
“When I saw everyone rushing the field, I thought, ‘No way. We have 1 or 2 seconds left,’ ” McCoy said. “I was just trying to get Hunter back in the middle.”
Lawrence had never kicked a game-winner, but he remained calm, even when Nebraska called timeout to make him think about it more. McCoy, meanwhile, sat on one knee, head looking down and a hand over his eyes, overcome by what was at stake.
“I knew I had to make it,” Lawrence said.
His kick was on target. The pro-Longhorns crowd of 76,211 went wild, and Texas players flung their helmets and rushed the field to celebrate their trip to Pasadena, Calif.
The Cornhuskers slunked off, unable to believe they weren’t going away with the upset.
“From one of the best feelings I’ve ever had to one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had,” Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee said. “I don’t really have a way to describe the way I feel right now.”
McCoy likely would say the same, but for very different reasons. After never being sacked more than four times in a game, McCoy was taken down nine times by Nebraska, 4 ½ by Ndumakong Suh. The abuse dazed the winningest QB in college football history, prompting him into making a bunch of freshman mistakes — including the nearly costly flub of letting time run out.
But after a 42-yard field goal by Alex Henery put the Cornhuskers up 12-10 with 1:44 left, an out-of-bounds kickoff put No. 3 Texas (13-0) at its 40. McCoy drove to the Nebraska 26, then faced third-and-13 from the 29 when he made the controversial pass out of bounds.
“I thought time was over,” Suh said, “but obviously it wasn’t.”
Lawrence was carried off on the shoulders of his teammates. That just as easily could’ve been Henery, who accounted for all of Nebraska’s points, also making kicks of 45, 52 and 28.