LINCOLN — Dropped balls, fumbles, penalties, missed tackles and bad field position.
Nothing seemed to go right for the Nos. 4 and 5 Nebraska football team in a 20-13 loss to Texas Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
The Huskers had five fumbles and lost one, dropped three potential touchdown passes, were penalized 10 times for 94 yards and missed too many tackles. NU’s average starting field position was its 23-yard line. Husker coach Bo Pelini said those things were the difference between a win and a loss.
“Football comes down to fundamentals, execution, technique and playing the right way and we didn’t do any of those things today,” Pelini said. “We didn’t play up to our capabilities today and we had opportunities to make plays. We just didn’t execute.
“But I have to give Texas credit because they played a good football game.”
A key for the Longhorns’ win was the running game, especially quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The Texas sophomore had 11 carries for 71 yards and scored two touchdowns. In all, the Longhorns had 46 carries for 209 yards.
“I’m proud of how we ran the ball today,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “That’s something we have been trying to do. When we run the ball for almost 200 yards, we’ve almost never lost. We’ve encourage Garrett to get more yards with his feet and he did that today. He might not be Vince Young or Colt McCoy when he’s running the ball, but he’s effective. ”
Also, the Longhorn defense held Nebraska freshman Taylor Martinez to just 21 yards on 13 carries. Martinez was also 4-of-12 for 63 yards but a lot of those misses were dropped balls for possible touchdowns.
“Again, we just didn’t execute and our reads weren’t good,” Pelini said. “We had a couple of touchdowns that we should have had with Martinez with the dropped balls. It comes down to execution and we didn’t do that.”
Texas scored first on an eight-play drive that ended on a 27-yard field goal from Justin Tucker in the first quarter.
It took the Longhorns one play to get the ball back as Roy Helu, Jr. fumbled at the NU 21. From there, Texas needed only five plays to score on a 3-yard run by Gilbert for a 10-0 lead.
Brown said getting the 10-0 lead was key, especially after the Longhorns’ 34-12 loss to UCLA on Sept. 25 when they trailed 14-3 at the half.
“It gave us all the confidence in the world we needed,” Brown said. “But I thought there was more pressure on them today than us and that’s unusual. And, sometimes, it’s harder to play at home at a place like Texas and Nebraska than it is on the road.”
Nebraska started to find a little bit of momentum late in the first quarter, sparked by Martinez’ 14-yard run on third-and-10. But the drive stalled deep in Texas territory when a wide-open Rex Burkhead dropped a potential touchdown pass on third down. Alex Henery kicked a 45-yard field goal early in the second quarter to get the Huskers on the board and back in the game.
However later in the quarter, Texas used a seven-play, 78-yard drive to score. The key play was a 41-yard pass from Gilbert to Foswhitt Whittaker. Three plays later, Gilbert scored on a 1-yard run for a 17-3 lead.
The Longhorns made it 20-3 on a Tucker 28-yard field goal on their second possession of the third quarter.
With the offense sputtering and the game winding down, Nebraska brought in Zac Lee for Martinez on the third series of the quarter. Lee provided a spark with a five-minute drive, but the Huskers could only manage three points as Henery made a 28-yard field goal.
For the game, Lee was 4-of-9 for 14 yards but he was also haunted by some dropped passes. A critical drop came on a fourth-and-18 play at the Longhorns’ 28-yard line late in the fourth quarter, this time by wideout Brandon Kinnie.
Wth hope waning and Texas driving with just over three minutes left in the game, the Huskers appeared to grab momentum back when Eric Hagg took a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown. But the Longhorns recovered the ensuirng onside kick and put the game away by converting two first downs.
The Huskers won’t have much time to lick their wounds as they to No. 20 Oklahoma State for a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday that will be televised regionally by ABC. Pelini said the Huskers have to put the Texas loss behind them and get ready for the Cowboys.
“We need to look ourselves in the mirror and take responsibility about what happened against Texas and just move on,” Pelini said. “We got to make sure that this experiences makes us stronger. I know this team has a lot of character and I’m sure we’ll bounce back the right way.”