AUSTIN, Texas ï At least this time, Nebraska's defense went down swinging.
Ranked among the worst units in the country in several categories and stripped of their traditional Blackshirt practice jerseys, the Cornhuskers tried a different approach in Saturday's 28-25 loss to No. 17-ranked Texas. Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove went for broke and blitzed the Longhorns the vast majority of the game.
"We just felt that it was a good opportunity for us," Cosgrove said. "Everything worked for the most part just not quite well enough."
Ultimately, Nebraska's strategy had mixed results. After holding Texas to three field goals and 284 total yards through three quarters, the Huskers gave up 261 fourth-quarter yards 216 of them on rushing yards to Jamaal Charles as the Longhorns rallied for the victory.
Considering Nebraska's almost complete lack of success on defense for the past several games, the most commonly asked question of Cosgrove was why didn't the Huskers blitz more often in earlier games?
"Offenses change," Cosgrove said. "You have to be careful what you do against certain offenses.
"The unique thing about the Big 12 is that you see a different type of offense every week. What we did today isn't necessarily something that would work last week or the week before."
However, because the Huskers viewed the Texas offensive scheme as relatively basic, Cosgrove felt the time was right to release the hounds. Longhorn quarterback Colt McCoy was sacked just once, but absorbed several big hits while completing just 12-of-28 pass attempts for 181 yards.
"I didn't want to get him into a rhythm," Cosgrove said of McCoy. "We wanted to be the attacker."
McCoy was certainly surprised.
"It took us a whole half to figure out what was going on to work," McCoy said. "I've never been in a game where they're going to blitz every play, literally every play (Nebraska) was bringing somebody and most of the time they were bringing everybody.
"We had worked on that a little bit, but that hadn't been part of what they were doing all year."
Nebraska defensive end Zach Potter said the blitzes were definitely working.
"We got a lot of pressure on him and it affected (McCoy) a lot," Potter said. "You could see him get up slow here and there and he looked a little down."
Nebraska senior safety Ben Eisenhart said he liked the idea of getting after McCoy.
"We were blitzing about every down and we were coming with people because we weren't just going to sit there and just let him decide who he wanted to throw to," Eisenhart said. "We were going to come after in and it was pretty successful during the game."
Eisenhart said the NU defense played inspired football for three quarters.
"We just had guys flying around to the ball," Eisenhart said. "Guys have been playing really intense lately. Everybody is really, really sick of losing.
"It worked for most of the game."
Cosgrove said he thought bringing almost constant pressure gave his defensive players a spark.
"They competed," Cosgrove said. "They really did. I'm proud of them."
While the Huskers lived on the blitz for three quarters, they might have died with strategy in the fourth quarter. Once again, Nebraska had no answer for zone read running plays as Charles ripped off touchdown runs of 25, 86 and 40 yards in the fourth quarter to finish with 290 rushing yards the most ever gained by an individual player against NU, erasing a 247-yard game by Oklahoma's Bill Sims in the 1979 game at Norman, Okla.
"When you put the pressure on like we wanted to have on (McCoy), if you don't execute exactly right, there's a chance you can get hurt," Cosgrove said.
Eisenhart said he wasn't really sure why things broke down in the final quarter for Nebraska's defense.
"I think maybe people got a little tired or people started doing what they weren't supposed to do," Eisenhart said.
Cosgrove said the Longhorns didn't do anything differently in the fourth quarter.
"That long one that was just an outside zone play, which we hit it pretty good for the most part during the game," Cosgrove said of Charles' 86-yard run. "We didn't want to let them have the zone read game with the quarterback, so we felt like it was a pretty good plan."
While the defense finally kept Nebraska in the game, Cosgrove stopped short of saying the game marked progress for his unit.
"We wanted to win this football game," Cosgrove said. "We had a chance to win this football game and we didn't quite get it done, so we'll build on it for next week."