"He's been a superstar," said LCB Aaron Ross. "Each game he's getting better and better. He's picking up reads. He's an All-American in my eyes."
The Burnt Orange crystal ball says McCoy just locked up First-Team All-Big 12 honors; it's a given that he's the league's Freshman of the Year. McCoy was listed No. 4 in this week's Rocky Mountain News panel of Heisman voters, which has, almost without exception, predicted the eventual winner. The stats McCoy put up Saturday are Heisman-worthy: 23-of-29 for a career-best 346 yards, three TDs and no INTS. (It surpassed Vince Young's best passing performance of the national championship season when he threw for 336 yards against Colorado in October, 2005).
"He's a great team leader and playing consistently," head coach Mack Brown said. "That's hard to do for anybody, especially a freshman."
Yet, Brown believes any Heisman talk for McCoy is premature.
"I don't think freshmen should be up for the Heisman," Brown said, who believes the award should represent an upperclassman's body of work. "The Heisman is about a great player, who time and time again, can lead his team to a win. But, definitely, Colt should be looked at for some first-year awards."
If there was a post-season award for the most humble, self-effacing, praise-deferring player, McCoy would be a lock.
"The most important thing is the win," McCoy said, after No. 4 Texas raised its mark to 9-1. "Coach (Greg) Davis did a great job of play-calling. I had enough protection to make plays to the wide receivers. They had a lot of yards after the catch. I give it all to them."
In fact, McCoy practically blushes when praised. After all, here's a kid from a town so small it doesn't even have a Dairy Queen and now he's mentioned nationally among college football circles.
"The most important thing," McCoy said, "is that they know who the Texas Longhorns are."
If we can blow McCoy's horn for just a little longer, it must be for this reason: Texas just does not have a great running game. The Horns netted 164 yards rushing on 45 carries, and Brown said it was because OSU bottled up the inside running lanes and sold out to stop the run. Maybe, but ten games into the season, you can see a trend. Saturday night's effort is par for the course. Jamaal Charles led all rushers with 67 yards on 21 attempts. (Note: RB Selvin Young was "banged up" in the second quarter and did not play in the second half, Brown said, but "he could have played if we needed him." He finished with 14 yards on six carries). It underscores the fact that if Texas did not have a QB who was enjoying an historic RS-freshman year, you're looking at a 9-4 season.
Then again, Texas' run defense gives it a chance every outing. Okie State enters the ball game as just one of three D-I teams averaging 200+ yards rushing and passing. It's ground game ranked No. 4 nationally (211.1 ypg) and managed 80 yards on 21 carries. Explosive QB Bobby Reid netted just 18 yards on eight runs. Yet, the biggest defensive storyline from Saturday's contest was Texas' pass defense, and this time the verdict was positive.
Texas limped into the game with nation's No 112 pass defense. Longhorn DBs are still providing bigger cushions than Sofa King, but it was a highly focused and determined secondary that held OSU to 123 yards through the air. (Remember: the Cowboys have a couple of wideouts who'll be playing Sundays some day. WR D'Juan Woods is a two-time second-team All-Big 12 selection; Adarius Bowman is a Biletnikoff semi-finalist). Yet, the DBs met with Co-Defense Coordinators Gene Chizik and Duane Akina (a-gain) earlier last week to talk about upgrading the play of the secondary.
"This is the part of year where it's time to get after it," Chizik said. "If it wasn't the best (performance), it was up there with one of our best performances, particularly when you take into account their offense and the kind of points they've been scoring."
Chizik dialed up some early safety blitzes to try to rattle Reid. It worked. The sophomore was 11-of-28 passing, two INTs, no TDs and twice threw the ball into the stands. Ross was assigned to D'Juan Woods early in the game. He was a one-man tip-drill when he produced a highlight reel INT on Oklahoma State's first possession of the final frame. It led the Charles' nine-yard scoring run around right end on the next play, capping the scoring at 36-10.
"We were working on that play all week long," Ross laughed. "I saw the screen, bobbled the ball and came down with it."
He returned it one yard, prompting McCoy to joke: "If it had been me, I would have scored."
OSU also dialed-up a steady diet of safety blitzes in the early going but backed off after intermission. Davis countered the pressure with quick hits in the passing game and more sprint-outs for McCoy.
The Horns controlled the clock like they owned it. Texas' time-of-possession stood at 38:16.
Yet we all know, as Brown said, that Texas is still looking for its first complete game of the season.
"Our best game is still out there," Brown said.
Indeed. Much like the Nebraska game, the offense sputtered inside the 10-yard line. Against the Cowboys, Texas settled for FGs on three drives that cracked the 10.
Kickoff coverage was erratic. In fact, the Cowboys posted more return yards (206) than total yards (203). Grant Jones' 89-yard KO return for TD is the only reason why the score won't reflect that Texas kept the second-highest scoring team in OSU history out of the end zone. (In fact, his third-quarter return marked the first time in four years that OSU scored against Texas in the second half). Lawrence struggled some, and Brown said he wasn't sure why the reliable freshman did not have any touchbacks. Finally, Ryan Bailey is mortal: the Nebraska hero missed his first PAT attempt of the season following Charles nine-yard TD run.
Bottom line: Texas is the only unbeaten team in Big 12 play. Following A&M's 17-16 loss to OU, the Horns can clinch a share of the Big 12 South title and book passage to the Championship game with a win at Kansas State next weekend.
For the first time in five years, Texas scored first in this series. A 17-yard completion to Billy Pittman, a nine-yard toss to Quan Cosby, and a quarterback draw good for 11 moved the chains to the Cowboy 22 on Texas' second series. A shovel-pass to Charles made it 1st-and-goal from the 10, but the Horns settled for a 21-yard Bailey FG to take the early lead.
The Big Mo shifted to the Longhorn sideline on the first play of the second quarter, the result of a little trickery. In punt-formation on 4th-and-1 from the 34, the snap went directly to Rashad Bobino who churned for a five-yard gain.
"We felt like it was worth the risk," Brown said. "The kids on the punt team were so excited that we were afraid they were going to give it away."
DE Marque Fountain's roughing the passer call aided the Horns' cause, but we can call this the Nate Jones' Drive. The junior has almost been the forgotten man in Texas' loaded WR corps but showed glimpses of why he was such a highly-regarded signee in 2004. Jones moved the sticks on 3rd-and-two with a 15-yard grab on McCoy's right sideline pass and, following a tough-nosed 10-yard run courtesy of Selvin Young, Jones capped the 11-play, 88-yard drive with a 13-yard TD reception on the flag-pass.
The Horns were just getting started. Tyrell Gatewood forced a Grant Jones fumble following a 12-yard KO return, recovered by Ryan Palmer at the 28. Here, I told my press box comrads that McCoy would immediately go up top to Limas Sweed in the left corner of the north end zone. I was wrong. McCoy went up top to Pittman in the left corner of the north end zone. Texas owned a 17-0 lead with 11:10 remaining until halftime.
Jones' return to the 35 sparked the Pokes who, two completions later, set up shop at the Texas 13 following a personal foul against SS Michael Griffin. But on 3rd-and-4 from the seven, a hurried Reid overthrew an open D'Juan Woods on the crossing pattern. Credit SLB Robert Killebrew for pressuring Reid, forcing OSU to come away with just 24-yard FG.
Sweed's fumble at the end of a 13-yard reception spotted the Cowboys at the Texas 39 and a chance to cut deeper into the Longhorn lead with 6:26 left until intermission. But on 3rd-and-13, Michael Griffin picked off Reid's deep ball at the goal line and returned it seven yards.
Jamaal Charles' 14-yard gain got Texas out of the shadow of its end zone but the big play was McCoy's 51-yard strike to Quan Cosby on 3rd-and-10 from the23. RCB Martel Van Zant bit just enough on McCoy's pump-fake to allow Cosby to get separation down the left sideline, Van Zant's personal foul face mask penalty moved the first-down marker to the Cowboy 13, but the only points the Horns could muster was Bailey's 24-yard FG. The Horns took a 20-3 lead into the locker room.
McCoy found Pittman for 23 on 3rd-and-12 from the 18 on Texas' first series of the second half. He would hook-up with Finley for 40 to set up 1st-and-goal from the nine. But for the third time on the evening, the Horns could not cash in from inside the 10, this time settling for a 19-yard Baily FG.
It becomes a dicier affair when Jones returns the KO 89 yards to make it a 23-10 ballgame.
"That gave them a chance to get back in the ballgame," Brown said.
The Cowboys forced a Texas punt but a roughing the kicker penalty on Nathan Peterson cost his club. It was the infraction that kept the Longhorn drive alive, resulting in McCoy's record-breaking TD toss to Finley.