AUSTIN, Texas ï No. 19 Texas extended Nebraska's 0-for-October on Saturday.
The Longhorns extended the Cornhuskers losing streak to four games their first that long since 1961 with a 28-25 victory at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
But unlike the first three defeats in the losing skid, this one was a comeback loss.
There was no defeat of at least 22 points, no signs that the game was already over at halftime.
Nebraska (4-5, 1-4 Big 12) took a 17-3 lead 2 minutes, 28 seconds into the second half. But a Longhorn offense that was picking up yards but not points got on track and scored on five of six possessions to avoid a heartbreaking home loss to the struggling Huskers.
"I'm awfully proud of the way our players performed and the effort they gave on the field today," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "It was heartfelt. They gave everything they had and left everything they had on the field today. I think we can build on that as we get ready for Kansas next week."
Despite the better effort and increased energy, the Nebraska defense which was surprisingly stingy in the first half started bleeding big plays during Texas' comeback.
The Longhorns (7-2, 3-2) scored a pair of touchdowns in a span of 4:50 in the fourth quarter to take a 21-17 lead. Those drives totaled seven plays for 172 yards and took up 2:09.
The Longhorns ran three straight plays of at least 24 yards to cut the lead to 17-15 on Jamaal Charles' 25-yard run with 12:23 left. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, whose pants were so grass-stained they looked like the newest Oregon uniform due to a game-long battering by the former Blackshirts, had to leave for a play after being injured. He returned to promptly tear off a 24-yard run to set up Charles' touchdown.
"(McCoy) goes out and comes back in and has a pretty big play for a first-and-10," Callahan said. "That was a really big play that broke our back there. Essentially I thought he was out of the game and he had a lot of guts and courage and came back in and played well."
A Zach Potter interception ended Texas' next drive, but the Longhorns resumed their piling on with big plays after NU went three-and-out.
Charles, who rushed for 290 yards on 33 carries with 216 of those coming in the fourth quarter, blew past the Nebraska defense for an 86-yard score to give the Longhorns the lead for good, 21-17 with 7:33 left.
Another Charles TD, this time for 40 yards, made it 28-17 with 3:34 remaining.
Nebraska got within 28-25 on a drive the may prove to be costly into the future. Quarterback Sam Keller suffered a shoulder injury on an incomplete pass on second-and-10 from the UT 24-yard line. He landed hard on his shoulder on a hit by defensive end Eddie Jones just after releasing the pass.
"It's his shoulder," Callahan said. "To what degree we don't know. We'll have to wait until we get home and get an X-ray or MRI, whatever they have to do."
Backup Joe Ganz came in and found Maurice Purify open for 13 yards on fourth-and-10, then connected with Purify again for a 4-yard score with 1:39 left.
"I thought it got us back in the game," Purify said. "We needed an onside kick, we needed a stop, and we just didn't get it."
Texas cornerback Brandon Foster cleanly grabbed the onside attempt in the air and held on despite almost fumbling before he was down. The Longhorns ran out the clock from there even though they never kneeled with only a three-point lead.
"They made the plays we didn't in the second half," Callahan said. "I thought the reverse (by Charles) hurt us there in the second half for a big play.
"Secondly the play Keller gets knocked out on we had a receiver wide open and we broke down in protection. We had an opportunity on that play. Those were two key plays in my mind in the fourth quarter. We certainly had those opportunities to make those plays to win and we came up short at the end."
Surprisingly, the first half developed into a defensive struggle and saw misfires by the offenses, by occasionally confused officials and by the Texas cannon, which was fired after a missed Longhorns field goal try.
The much-criticized and often-scored-upon Nebraska defense showed more success from the start. Texas didn't cross midfield until its third possession.
That drive did result in points for the Longhorns on Ryan Bailey's 38-yard field goal with 3:05 left in the first quarter. That turned out to be the only score for Texas before halftime.
Nebraska's offense, which stuck with the run early, equaled Texas' field goal on the next possession. The Huskers converted a fourth-and-1 on the Longhorns' 29-yard line with a 10-yard completion from Keller to fullback Andy Sand.
The drive stalled out after that, and a 31-yard field goal by Alex Henery tied it with 13:41 left in the half.
Nebraska grabbed a 10-3 lead with 2:34 left after driving 80 yards in eight plays. NU successfully converted on two third downs before Keller found a wide open Nate Swift on a post route for a 24-yard TD.
"I think as a whole our team came out with a great effort, especially in the first half," Swift said. "In the second half we slowed a little but still had a great effort."
The Huskers earned "Upset Watch" status when Swift scored again on the same play from 23 yards out with 12:32 left in the third quarter to go up 17-3.
Nebraska then saw Texas account for the next five scores, starting with two more Bailey field goals.
"Going into halftime we definitely had momentum," Swift said. "After halftime we stopped them a couple times. After they scored and took the lead, I felt (the momentum) switched."
Even though it might not have been as demoralizing as a blowout loss, the Huskers were still dejected after looking back at a game they felt they could have won.
But an effort that was missing the past three weeks was a positive the coaches tried to take away from the defeat.
"They're empty," Callahan said. "That's all you can ask a team to do, empty their tank."