This summer, Case McCoy went to Peru on a mission trip. At the start of fall practice, McCoy might as well have been out of the country.
For arguably the first time since Case's brother, Colt McCoy roamed the 40 Acres, Texas entered fall camp with a clear-cut No. 1 starter in David Ash. And much of the talk centered around Tyrone Swoopes, Texas's 6-foot-4, 245-pound true freshman tank with a howitzer for an arm and the pitter-patter feet to make sweet music on zone read plays. Ash? He was the man. Swoopes? The future man, who could even see a package of plays to take advantage of his considerable talents.
And then there was Case, the physically unassuming quarterback whose last two headlines as a Longhorn were negative. The first came when McCoy, starting in place of an injured Ash in the 2012 season finale against Kansas State, threw two interceptions on out routes, then angrily responded to a question by stating that he had been making those throws since he was three years old. The second happened when McCoy, along with linebacker Jordan Hicks, was sent home from the Alamo Bowl and suspended from the team for breaking team rules.
Heading into fall camp, McCoy was the solid backup with experience just in case the season hit an unforeseen iceberg. And when the ship hit, McCoy grabbed the wheel with gusto.
Rather than assume the usual backup role, playing the "I'm just trying to make sure things don't blow up in the starter's absence" guy, McCoy sat in front of reporters the Monday before the Oklahoma game, talking about how the upcoming showcase with the Sooners was a legacy game for him. Some, undoubtedly, rolled their eyes. McCoy started twice previously this season, both because Ash continued to suffer symptoms from a head injury sustained earlier against BYU.
In the first of those, McCoy had a nice start, aided by the Texas running game. But when the run shut down, so did the valves on the passing offense in the second half as the Longhorns were shutout in the second stanza. And against Iowa State, McCoy's only touchdown pass came on a 44-yard Hail Mary. Other than that pass, he averaged less than five yards per pass attempt.*
* To put that in perspective, Kansas is the Big 12's worst offense in terms of yards per passing attempt. Kansas averages 6.0 YPA.
Because of those performances (and the fact that Texas hadn't exactly been tough-as-nails against Oklahoma in the recent past), many writers penned their postmortems on Longhorn coach Mack Brown's career the week leading up to the game.
But McCoy has always been confident, and while most discarded his legacy comments before the Oklahoma game, he embraced the challenge. Rolling out a retooled Texas offense built more for the power game and without some of the arm-strength-testing throws that McCoy struggled to make, he completed 13-of-21 passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns to one interception.
"He played solid," said offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who said it was McCoy's best performance. "I'm proud of him. He didn't get rattled. They got it back to a two-possession game, and he went right back out there and did what he needed to do."
It was a dream," McCoy said. "I came to Texas to play in this game, and so did a lot of the seniors. This game has gotten even bigger over the years. We haven't played as well in this game the last couple years, so this will be one that the other seniors and I will remember for a long time."
And about that whole legacy thing?
"He's cemented his legacy," Brown said. "He won't just be Colt's little brother."
That's been a tough comparison for Case for the length of his career. It's tough having an older brother who sets the NCAA record for completion percentage, leaves college as the winningest QB of all time and leads Texas to the BCS National Title game. But Case hasn't allowed himself to get bogged down in the comparison, and he now boasts arguably the two biggest wins since Colt left campus — the final game against Texas A&M and Saturday's contest against OU.
But what happens now, moving forward?
"It is Case's team until David returns," Brown said on this week's Big 12 teleconference. "Until we're told David is returning to practice, Case is the only one on the team that's taken a snap at quarterback. He did an outstanding job Saturday … when David returns, obviously we'll have to look at that, but that's not an issue."
That's a long way not just from where McCoy was before the season started, but even from where McCoy sat just a week ago, as fans howled for Ash's return or the premature crowning of Swoopes as the next big thing. But for McCoy, it just fits with the narrative.
"You're going to struggle in life and things are going to happen," Applewhite said. "He has fought to get back with his teammates and be a leader and prove himself as a quarterback. I'm proud of him."