Stoops: QB is 'Biggest Difference' at Texas

The biggest difference between the 2005 national championship Longhorns and this year's No. 7 Texas team is its quarterback, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. It's hardly a new storyline, but Longhorn coaches believe RS-freshman Colt McCoy has progressed enough in just the last three games to become a difference-maker.

Of course, there is no mistaking the likes of Rice and Sam Houston State with an Oklahoma team that is one blown officiating call away from being an undefeated Top 10 program. And when its head coach looks at Longhorn game film in preparation for the 101st waging of the annual border war, Stoops see no appreciable decline in Texas' team speed or the skill level since last year's 13-0 season.

"The major difference is quarterback," he said.

To be fair, Stoops' comments were not directed at McCoy but rather his game-breaking, All-American predecessor.

"I don't need to tell you what an exceptional player Vince Young was and what he made happen," Stoops said. "The biggest difference (at Texas) is that he's not out there. Colt McCoy has done an excellent job, but they have different styles. The plays Vince Young was able to make on his own were just amazing. That part is undeniable."

But there's no denying that McCoy is a markedly improved QB since the Ohio State game, Longhorn coaches insist. Specifically, McCoy is displaying more confidence, swagger and an overall grasp of the game, than at any time during his fledgling collegiate career, Texas coach Mack Brown said.

"I've never seen a more confident and more consistent freshman quarterback than Colt," Brown said. "He has practiced the same way every day. It's been amazing to us. Last week, you would have thought there would have been some drop-off. He didn't miss a throw. I kept thinking there has to be a drop-off here, between Iowa State and OU, but he's had none. I think part of that is being a high school coach's son in the state of Texas. This is his life."

But, does Brown anticipate a drop-off from the freshman? Say, in a nationally-televised showdown against your arch-rival?

"No. He's been the same way every day. It's really impressed us, and we didn't know that five weeks ago."

McCoy is rated No. 8 nationally in passing efficiency (174.3), just ahead of Florida's Chris Leak and Ohio State's Troy Smith in that department, but is just one of five QBs among the top 25 with less than 100 attempts. McCoy is 69-of-97 (71.1 percent) for 846 yards (No. 56 in total passing yards). He has thrown 10 TDs against two INTs and is averaging 12.26 yards-per-completion.

"We have much more confidence in our passing game then we did five weeks ago," Brown added. "It's a credit to (McCoy) and to our receivers. You can see Jevan Snead) is growing up, as well as Colt, right in front of our faces...This team is much more confident than it was in our game against Ohio State."

Statistics aside, McCoy is ahead of the learning curve when picking up blitzes and looking off primary receivers, coaches say. He has begun to venture outside the comfort zone typical of most young QBs in Offensive Coordinator's Greg Davis' system. The passing game contains a 'concept' side and an 'individual' side scripted into each play. The safety net for quarterbacks, regardless of his stage of development, is the 'concept' side.

"When they're young, quarterbacks will almost always will play the concept (side) because they know they're not long (routes)," Davis said. "You can be wrong by going to the individual (side). As you get older, quarterbcks start going to (individual routes) more and more. Colt is doing that at a very early age."

Case-in-point: McCoy has shown a recent knack for the skinny post.

"That usually doesn't happen early with young quarterbacks," Davis said, "We have that (route) on a lot of our passes, but it's very, very seldom the primary one. So, when you see Colt stick (SE) Limas (Sweed), as he did against Iowa State, he's not going to a primary receiver; he's going to a backside receiver. That's not a real easy pass to throw. It's not a slant. It's not a lay-up ball. It's a rhythm throw."

McCoy also went up top to Sweed with a 42-yard TD strike just before halftime against SHSU. If recent history is an indication, it's the type of play that has been successful against Oklahoma (even when the program sported a more vintage secondary than this year's unit). When the likes of Texas A&M and Oklahoma State were knocking off highly-ranked Sooner squads during Texas' five-year series' skid, opposing coaches noticed that Oklahoma's DBs tended to sit on intermediate routes. As such, Oklahoma's 'so-good-it's-scary' defense proved vulnerable when a daring game plan called for just enough deep balls, over the middle, to spring the upset.

It begs the question: now that coaches are confident that McCoy can hit the long ball, can we anticipate that a vertical passing game (missing against Ohio State) will be operative against OU? Reading into one of Brown's comments, one gets the impression that Texas not only will, but must.

"Vince had very few plays with his feet in the Oklahoma game last year," Brown said. "There were minimal rushing yards; they were all in the air. OU took his feet away last year and made him throw, and then he hit the big plays in the passing game."

For the record, Young had 45 yards on 17 carries against the Sooners in 2005; he completed 14-of-27 for 241 yards. But it was a day when Texas ran for 203 yards on 40 attempts, including RB Jamaal Charles' 116 yards on nine carries.

McCoy believes his progress is not restricted to the playing field.

"It's being that leader who can get everybody together towards one goal," he said. "It's coming in there and saying, 'All right, we're going to take this ball into the end zone on this first drive.' The most important thing is that we've come together. We're playing as one unit like Coach Brown and Coach Davis has told us to. We just want to keep staying on track."

Horns Digest Top Stories