But Troy Smith displayed the clear difference between a redshirt freshman playing in only his second career football game and a senior Heisman Trophy candidate who was determined to make up for a below average game against the Longhorns last year in Columbus. McCoy threw a crucial interception on the first drive of the second half; Smith neither fumbled nor was he intercepted.
The Ohioan played a solid and errorless game, completing 17 of 26 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He also proved to one and all that he is a quarterback, and not simply a running quarterback. He ran for only four yards on four carries, but his mobility in the pocket allowed him to avoid sacks and find open receivers.
"We went with basic calls all night long," Smith said. "And our wide receivers played a great game, and I think we only gave up one sack (note: it was actually three), and that was huge."
Many believed Smith took last year's Texas loss in Columbus personally, and indeed, the Buckeyes have lost only once since. But he was quick to dispel any notion of redemption following the game.
"Nah, this wasn't a revenge thing," Smith said. "Any win is a good win."
Field position also played a major role in the game, making McCoy's task much more difficult. Ohio State punter A.J. Trapasso average 50.8 yards on six boots, giving Texas a long field for most of the night.
"Troy Smith gets my number one vote for the Heisman trophy," Texas safety Michael Griffin said. "And he proved he can throw. It's the same thing they said about Vince (Young): can he throw? He answered that."
Cornerback Aaron Ross and defensive coordinator Gene Chizik were equally impressed by Smith.
"He's a great athlete," Ross said. "He's made a whole 180 since last year. He's a great athlete, and tonight he showed he's a great leader."
"He proved why he's a Heisman candidate," Chizik said. "And he proved he's not just a running quarterback. He was on fire and had a great game."
For McCoy, he will, after the initial pain of the loss, be comforted by the fact that even Young had his moments of trepidation early in his career. He fumbled while trying to score against Oklahoma. He was pulled in the Holiday Bowl. He was shut out by the Sooners. Some said he ought to be a receiver. Smith, likewise, had to live through some growing pains before reaching his current status. He had to overcome a suspension, a mini-quarterback controversy and the difficult loss last season to the Longhorns.
Perhaps McCoy, like Young and Smith, will use his loss as motivational fuel and rebound impressively. If nothing else, Texas coaches, fans and, most importantly, teammates, saw that McCoy is courageous – he made throws in the midst of a heavy pass rush and he also took some serious shots when running.
His interception, though, on the first drive of the second half, will be what he and most will remember about his game. Getting the ball to start the second half and trailing just 14-7, the Longhorns wanted to make a statement, re-energize the crowd and cast some doubt in the minds of the Buckeyes.
Instead, McCoy's pass went directly to Buckeye linebacker James Laurinaitis, and Ohio State turned the miscue into a 10-point lead. Many pundits predicted this game between the titans would logically be won by the team with the best quarterback.
At least for now, that team is Ohio State.