The last time Case McCoy traveled to Waco, it was a mixed bag. On one hand, the now-senior quarterback threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns. On the other, he threw four interceptions, including two absolute back-breakers. Texas led 21-17 just before halftime when McCoy threw a pick that K.J. Morton returned to the two. That allowed Baylor to take a 24-21 lead into the halftime break. Texas trailed 31-24 when the Longhorns drove across midfield and McCoy threw another interception, this one to Sam Holl, with Holl returning it 62 yards to the Texas 11. Baylor added another touchdown to go up 14.
Just like that, a close game that the Longhorns led became a two-score Baylor lead. The Bears went on to win 48-24 despite Texas putting up 557 yards on offense, thanks for six turnovers from the Longhorns.
But Texas co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said McCoy has grown since that game two years ago.
"Number one he has had a ton of starts in a row, so he has got a lot more experience," Applewhite said. "You know he has been through that situation, you hope to never repeat those kinds of situations. Chances are you may at some point, but he has done a good job. Last week he was very cautious with the football and we have to continue to build on that.
"I told him it is a lot like driving down the interstate," Applewhite said. " "You get five miles an hour over the speed limit, you get eight, you get ten, then all of a sudden those lights come on and you have to stop and it slows you down. You just have to monitor yourself, set the thing on cruise and make the great decisions always."
Can McCoy get to be too cautious?
"Yes, you can be too cautious. But, at the same time when turnovers are what win and lose games, you would rather be too cautious than not," Applewhite said. "You have to know who you are as a player, and Case is a guy who has ultimate trust in his teammates. I look at him as that guy on the court when you're playing pickup basketball that thinks his guy can get to any pass, he is going to throw that alley-oop and he is expecting you to catch it and dunk it. Sometimes, you have to reign yourself in, and be a little cautious, but I think that is a good thing rather than a bad thing."
Especially against a Baylor defense that is much improved from previous versions.
"Their statistics are night and day, from 123rd in the country last year to 29th, rushing was in the 80s or 90s, and into the 20s and 30s now," Applewhite said. "So they are a much different football team. (Eddie) Lackey, and even though (Bryce) Hager is out, (Brody) Trahan, that family has played football forever. (Ahmad) Dixon has been around, the corners out there, Dixon and (K.J.) Morton, those guys have played a lot of football, just a lot of ball. They have been there for some good years, and some not so good years, and they have been just a more difficult group to move the ball against this year because they have so much experience."
That has allowed them to take even further advantage of the turnovers they've been able to generate.
"I think number one, Coach Bennett has those guys playing better," Applewhite said. "They are more aggressive outside, more bump and run, more press, more man coverage. The linebackers, Hager, Trahan, (Sam Hall), and Lackey, those guys have seen so many snaps now they are breaking on things, they are jumping on things. Lackey did a (heck) of a job of jumping a slant last week and taking it to the house, he looked like a sprinter."
"I think they are playing harder," Applewhite said. "In '08 when we played them here, and then we went up there and played them in '09 and we didn't really do much in the second half in '09. I just remember seeing them after the game and saying, I know the game did not turn out how you want, but your guys are playing different than how they did last year. So I think they are playing harder, and with playing harder is experience. You see things, you anticipate things, you are able to react to things faster, you are a faster player, you are a more physical player. That is what appears like you are playing harder. So I think with all these guys getting older and seeing more snaps and more games, that is what you are seeing with them."
Applewhite credited the safeties Morton and Ahmad Dixon (who will miss the first half after earning a targeting call last week) with helping to establish that defensive attitude.
"He and Morton, they are going to jaw, they are going to have a good time out there, they are going to try and strike you and make big plays," Applewhite said. "That is their personality, and that is a lot of guys on defense's personality. We have a guy who plays for the Saints that is the same way."