ST. LOUIS - James Brown is a man of his word. His bold victory prediction, plus a daring fourth-down, 61-yard completion, led Texas to a 37-27 upset of No. 3 Nebraska in the Big 12 title game Saturday and ended the Cornhuskers' bid for an unprecedented third straight national title.
Nebraska (10-2), in losing its first conference game in five years, was knocked out of a Sugar Bowl matchup with No. 1 Florida State. Instead, the Cornhuskers will likely wind up in the Fiesta, Orange or Holiday bowls.
The Longhorns (8-4), meanwhile, won their fifth in a row and moved up into an alliance bowl, either the Fiesta or Orange.
Brown, who predicted his three-TD underdog Longhorns would beat the Huskers by three touchdowns, outsmarted coach Tom Osborne's vaunted defense at every turn. He threw a 66-yard TD pass to Wane McGarity with 8:23 left that gave the Longhorns a 27-23 lead.
"Everybody was asking me, I just felt we could beat them," Brown said. "I didn't make a prediction, I was just confident about our team and I thought could win."
The Huskers' defense had one last chance to redeem itself, backing the Longhorns up to their own 3 with under four minutes to go. Brown, though, wasn't finished.
On fourth-and-1 from the 28, he found Derek Lewis on a 61-yard pass play to the Huskers' 11. On the next play, Priest Holmes scored and the Longhorns became the first champions of the Big 12 Conference.
"That was a tremendous call. It was a big gamble, but it worked," Osborne said. "Had we been able to hold them there, we would have been in pretty good shape."
"They kept us off-balance all day," he said. "They had a lot of second-and-3s and we couldn't contain them."
Holmes scored three touchdowns, rushing for 120 yards on just nine carries. Brown was 19-of-28 for 353 yards and a TD.
Texas amassed 503 total yards, the most allowed by Nebraska in 14 years. The Longhorns' 37 points were the most against the Cornhuskers since Georgia Tech beat them 45-21 on Jan. 1, 1991, in the Citrus Bowl.
The Huskers, with DeAngelo Evans running for three TDs, had 398 total yards.
Brown, a 6-0, 190-pound junior, backed up his words from the opening series, leading the Longhorns 80 yards, with Holmes scoring from 5 yards out just 3:35 into the game.
Nebraska, playing in front of a pro-Husker crowd of 63,109 at the Trans World Dome, kept battling back from deficits, and finally took a one-point lead on Evans' 6-yard run with 2:11 left in the third quarter.
Kris Brown, who had a 51-yard field goal in the first half, padded the lead with a 24-yard field goal with 10:11 left.
But the Longhorns wouldn't quit. On the third play after the field goal, Brown connected with McGarity as safety-turned-linebacker Mike Minter mistimed his jump to break up the pass. McGarity caught the ball at the Husker 45 and ran it in from there.
His 61-yard hookup with Lewis on fourth down sealed one of the season's biggest upsets and turned the postseason picture into a bowl of confusion.
The numbers game may be just as stunning as the upset. In 11 games, the Huskers had allowed just 116 points and 2,562 yards.
Nebraska's last loss to a conference team, and also an unranked team, came in a 17-10 upset by Iowa State on Nov. 14, 1992. It also marked the first time in four seasons the Huskers have lost more than one game in a season.
The Longhorns dominated the first half, building a 20-17 lead on Holmes' TD runs of 5 and 61 yards and field goals of 49 and 30 yards by Dawson.
The Longhorns took it to the Huskers from the outset. Nebraska won the toss and chose to play defense. Then the nation's fourth-best defense forgot how to play.
With the game tied 10-10 midway through the second period, Holmes took a simple handoff from Brown, broke through the line and ran untouched for his 61-yard score, the longest run of his career and the longest TD run against the Huskers this season.
Nebraska, counter-punching to stay in the game, came back to tie the score on Evans' 23-yard TD run with 2:28 left. But Texas grabbed the lead again at 20-17 as Brown moved the Longhorns 63 yards before Dawson kicked his 30-yard field goal with one minute left.
On the game's opening drive, Brown passed left and Ricky Williams, Shon Mitchell and Holmes ran right, confusing the Huskers' stellar defense.
When Holmes scored from 5 yards out just 3:35 into the game, the Longhorns became the first team to rush for a TD against Nebraska's first-team defense.
Texas got the ball back and was set to score again, but Brown, with a second-and-goal from the 9, lobbed a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by safety Eric Stokes.
Nebraska snapped out of its funk and went 80 yards to make it 7-7 on Evans' 2-yard TD run with 14 seconds left in the quarter. Frost was 2-of-3 for 36 yards on the drive and also ran 16 yards to set up the score.
Dawson kicked a 49-yard field goal 3:10 into the second period and Brown countered with a 51-yard field goal just 3:11 later.
By the end of the half, the Longhorns rolled up 265 yards, including 128 rushing. Nebraska entered the game allowing 232.9 yards per game, 77.8 rushing.