Anatomy of a Comeback

There is no sure-fire formula for coming from behind to win football games. Or is there? Two months into the season, the 2006 Texas team appears to have discovered the secret potion, the genie in the bottle, the magic mojo combination of luck, timing and talent that every player, coach and fan would love to grasp forever.

Mack Brown can't fully explain it, Colt McCoy stubbornly keeps his mind clear of such matters and Texas fans couldn't care less what causes the Longhorns to swipe victory from defeat. Whatever it is, the Longhorns seem to have mastered it, and they are eagerly savoring it. Magic doesn't usually last forever, but it lasted throughout the month of October for Texas.

Yes, most memorable comebacks are unexplainable and inexplicable, and Texas' miraculous 35-31 win in Lubbock Saturday night against Texas Tech is no exception. But there are some absolutes to these things, and there is some method to Texas' comeback madness.

For one, a comeback requires a team be comforted by the knowledge that this has been done before. Texas did it earlier this year against Oklahoma, Baylor and Nebraska. We won't count the comebacks crafted over the past couple of seasons because of You Know Who, but those wins have nevertheless given Brown a chance to say to his team, "We've done this before."

Second, a huge comeback requires calm and fearless quarterback. McCoy is that. He took a half-dozen knockout shots from Nebraska in last week's comeback, and rose from the turf each time. This time, he not only completed 21 of 31 passes for 258 yards and 4 touchdowns; he also led the Texas rushing attack with 84 yards on 9 carries. His last carry came on 3rd and 5 with 1:31 left in the game, when he was flushed from the pocket, scrambled for 33 yards, then wisely slid down – in bounds – ending any hope of a Texas Tech comeback of its own.

Thirdly, a comeback must include a patient and forgetful defense. That was certainly the case Saturday night. The Longhorns were slapped silly in the first half, when Texas Tech rang up 364 yards of total offense and scored 31 points. For the game, Tech quarterback Graham Harrell was an obscene 42 of 62 for 519 yards and three touchdowns.

Yet the Texas defensive psyche kept the Longhorns from disaster. In the second half, Texas Tech scored as many points as your favorite old dog – zero. The Red Raiders managed just 154 second half total yards.

Most importantly, comebacks are usually accomplished by the best team. That was the case against Oklahoma. And Baylor. And Nebraska. In the end, the best team usually wins. The best team also won Saturday night in Lubbock.

"Our defense played so much better in the second half," Brown said. "And Colt, he's now led us to a comeback for four straight weeks, so that makes him special. We knew Tech would have a surge, because we've been out here before. We were just hoping we could keep it to 21 instead of 24 or 31 before the surge was stopped."

Brown said Tech's big early lead was as much about the Red Raiders as it was the Longhorns.

"I don't think I've ever seen them play as well as they did in the first half," Brown said. "Graham Harrell was just about perfect."

Indeed, Harrell's 42 completions tied a record for most completions against the Longhorns in a game. The previous record – of course – was set in last year's Tech game in Austin.

Which also ended in a Texas Tech loss.

"I can't say enough about this team," said McCoy, sporting a bloody lip. "I'm so proud of this team. This will take us a long way."

Davis was effusive in his praise of McCoy.

"He's playing at a very high level," Davis said. "On that big 3rd down play at the end, we told Colt, ‘if you don't like what you see in the pass route, keep it and stay in bounds.' He had the presence of mind to do it. Once he got the first down, I was saying, ‘protect the ball and get down.'"

McCoy had a different explanation for the play that iced the win.

"I knew we needed six or seven yards," McCoy said. "And I knew if we got the first down, Tech was out of time outs. I just went to the back side, Limas (Sweed) made a good block, and I got tired and fell down."

At the end his fall, he had in his grasp the same thing he has had for the past month: a comeback win. And how it happened really doesn't matter much at all.

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