Can Colt Pony-Up?

The biggest difference in Saturday's blockbuster between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Texas, according to many pigskin pollsters and pundits, is the difference at quarterback. Buckeye signalcaller Troy Smith is a savvy senior whose dual-threat capacity has drawn comparisons to Vince Young. But Texas' RS-freshman quarterback Colt McCoy, who turned 20 on Tuesday, has a secret for success.

The current rankings are a perverse compliment to Vince, suggesting that the transcendent former Longhorn is worth more than the nine Buckeye defenders who completed their eligibility. But McCoy may possess one Vince-like attribute in that, so far, he is unflappable in the huddle. And while McCoy may not have the Vince Vibe, he employs enough of the Vince vernacular when describing his game-day M.O. It's all about playing relaxed and having fun, he said.

"If you have fun, you're going to be loose, and relaxed, and ready for whatever the defense throws at you," McCoy said. "And you're teammates will see that."

And that's why McCoy is convinced that he does not need to outplay Smith in order for Texas to win Saturday.

"I just have to come out here to play to win and have fun," he repeated.

Obviously, McCoy has never performed on a bigger stage than Saturday's showdown, marking the first time the nation's top two teams have met in Austin. For McCoy, however, size is relative.

"There were more people at our first scrimmage than in his home town," head coach Mack Brown said.

In fact, the biggest crowd the Tuscola-product faced before Saturday's home opener was just under 10,000 on hand for a Class 2A state semi-final game in 2004. That makes his calm and efficient debut in Texas' 56-7 shellacking of North Texas all the more impressive.

"I was really pleased with the way Colt managed the game," Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis said. "Not just the obvious things that everybody saw but handling the no-huddle (offense) and the signals. He was very poised."

In fact, the only that thing seemed to rattle McCoy (initially) was the throng of media that clamored for every word. But what a difference a day makes. Just hours after McCoy's collegiate debut, there were no fewer than 20 autograph-seekers interrupting his supper at an Austin steakhouse.

"Things change when you play quarterback here," McCoy said. "Everywhere you go, somebody is looking at you funny."

Already, the equestrian language used to reference Colt borders on beating, well, a dead horse. But Davis likens the development of a young quarterback to that of an inexperienced driver.

"You get your license when you're 16 and you're a better driver at 20. It's because you've driven for three years. Colt is a good driver. He's got his driver's license. Will he be better in three years? I sure hope so, because he'll see all those dangers: the slick roads, the rain, and he will have experienced it. Right now, everything that happens is the first time it happens live. We gave him a ton of things during the spring and then during Fall Camp, much more than we gave Vince. But it (practice) is not the same (as game day).

Just like the Ohio State game is not the same as the North Texas game. In essence, McCoy's preparation for this seismic tilt began one year ago in Columbus. That's when he stuck his head in every sideline huddle between Brown and Young. He dissected the defense, watched as the play unfolded, and even relayed some of the "dummy signals" from the Longhorn bench. Even on that night, McCoy wanted to make sure he was ready.

"They expected me to pay attention and know what was going on in case something happened."

Since then, he has watched countless hours of Ohio State game film (so much that he couldn't begin to hazard a guess of the time he has spent in film rooms) during the spring, summer and August camp.

But "our main concern was North Texas," he added.

Uh-huh.

A diplomatic response but, chances are, the Horns did not dissect film from every Mean Green game as they did with the entire 2005 Buckeyes' season.

"You have to because they do different things in every game," McCoy said.

In essence, McCoy has prepared a year for Saturday's game. And for those who might still question his determination, consider this: McCoy gave up soft drinks more than seven years ago for no other reason than to prove to himself that he could do it. By his own estimation, he was up to a six-pack a day.

"I just wanted to see if I could be dedicated to something. I wanted to challenge and dedicate myself not to be doing something. I still haven't had one."

Now, when McCoy cracks open a cold one, he chugs "a half-gallon of milk every day. That's my thing."

Any temptation to down a couple of beers on his birthday?

"I've never touched a drop of alcohol in my life," McCoy said.

When asked if he had any vices -- any at all -- McCoy said, "No."

He then he smiled, and added, "But you should see how I milk my cow in the morning."

McCoy, it seems, is now as unflappable around the media as he is in the huddle. And that bodes well for the Horns this Saturday against Ohio State.


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