Originally created 11/28/01

Texas learned lessons from '99 rematch with Nebraska



AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas knows about rematches. And how to lose one.

Two years ago, the Longhorns played in the Big 12 title game against a Nebraska team they beat six weeks earlier in Austin. The Cornhuskers returned to Texas and won the second meeting 22-6 in the Alamodome.

The No. 3 Longhorns vow not to make the same mistake Saturday when they play No. 9 Colorado in the Big 12 title game at Texas Stadium. Six weeks ago, Texas beat the Buffaloes 41-7 in Austin.

Senior guard Antwan Kirk-Hughes, one of six starters remaining from the '99 Nebraska game, remembers the Longhorns being too confident going into that title game.

Although Nebraska had just one loss that season, Texas had beaten the Huskers three straight since 1996. UT was the only team to beat Nebraska three times in the '90s.

"We were saying we beat them once and the team was walking with big chests acting like it was going to happen again," Kirk-Hughes said. "They came out fired up because they remembered their last loss and it knocked them out of a lot of things. We didn't come prepared to play and we can't afford to do that this time."

Texas coach Mack Brown said he knew the Huskers were ready for revenge.

"Nebraska might have been the best team in the country that year. I thought Nebraska was a better team than we were when we beat them here," Brown said. "I knew Nebraska would be mad."

Colorado will be mad on Saturday, said Texas quarterback Chris Simms, who watched the '99 title game from the bench. The Buffaloes (9-2) won four in a row before losing to the Longhorns (10-1) and haven't lost since.

"Early on, we're going to have to weather the storm a little bit," Simms said. "It's similar to Nebraska in '99. We beat them here and they came out and jumped on us early It was like, 'Oh man, we might get blown out.'

"They're going to come out with that same intensity. We're just going to have to do a better job of being able to contain it and keep ourselves composed through it all."

Texas made it look easy in October, when Cedric Benson ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns and Simms passed for three TDs.

In both the regular-season wins over the title game foes, Texas got a huge boost from turnovers. Against Colorado, the Longhorns turned two first-half fumbles into 10 points en route to a 24-7 halftime lead, preventing the Buffs from getting their running game going.

While there are similarities to '99, there also are many differences.

For one, Texas is a better team than it was two years ago, Brown said. Plus, the Longhorns are coming off a 21-7 road win over rival Texas A&M instead of a 20-16 loss. The '99 Longhorns followed the losses to A&M and Nebraska with a blowout loss to Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

"We were on a real downer when we lost to A&M," Brown said. "We walked in there with less confidence than we have right now."

Preparing for this rematch, however, will be just as hard as it was then. What worked six weeks ago might not work on Saturday.

"We've already played them and put our best stuff on them and now what do you do?" Brown said. "Now you have to change everything."

Saturday's game marks the third straight year the Big 12 title game is a rematch from the regular season. Last year, Oklahoma had to beat a Kansas State team it had already handled during the regular season.

Brown said given the power structure of the league, it's a trend that's likely to continue.

"To win your championship," said Brown, who has never won a league title in his previous 17 seasons as a head coach, "it looks like you're going to have to beat a team twice."