Horns Begin Bowl Preparation Tuesday

Texas returned to practice Tuesday with two weeks to prepare for Alamo Bowl opponent Iowa, and with a couple of key questions.

Question No. 1: Will We See the Real McCoy in the bowl game?
Fifth-year senior Matt McCoy is a non-scholarship QB and is one heartbeat away from starting his first -- and last -- game as a Longhorn. There is cautious optimism around the Longhorn camp that RS-freshman Colt McCoy will start his 13th game on December 30. But Colt has yet to finish the past two contests after suffering a severed pinch nerve in his neck against Kansas State and Texas A&M.

"Trainers have told us it's a wait-and-see process," Texas coach Mack Brown said just before the Horns returned to practice.

Longhorn coaches are making contingency plans with either WR Billy Pittman or WR Quan Cosby, former prep star QBs, as the team's No. 3 signal-caller.

Question No. 2: Who Cares?
That is, how genuinely excited is 9-3 Texas, which had worked its way back into the BCS national championship mix, to a face a 6-6 Iowa team that finished ninth in the Big Ten?

"Neither team was able to finish with the excitement that they wanted to," Brown said, "and I think that's what makes this game such a good place for both schools. We're both excited about playing each other. The fan base from Iowa has always been known to travel, and our fans have filled up the Holiday Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and two Rose Bowls, and now helping to fill up (the Alamo Bowl). For a group of fans that have never been credited for traveling, ours have started traveling."

If ticket sales are an indication, there is ample interest among Longhorn fans that helped set a new attendance record in the 14th year of the Alamo Bowl's existence. At least 65,685 spectators will be in the stands, bowl officials estimated, marking the first time the contest has reached sellout status. The previous record was set in 1999 when 65,380 were on hand to see Penn State beat Texas A&M in the 65,000-seat Alamodome.

Gator Bowl officials passed on Texas, and there were reports that officials from the Jacksonville, Fla., venue based their decision on their belief Longhorn fans would not travel well to their site.

"If you're not playing in the BCS," Brown said, "what you need to do is go play some place that wants you. If you can play in front of full-house on ESPN, and if you're not in the BCS, then it doesn't get any better than that."

To some extent, Texas and Iowa have lived in parallel universes during the 2006 campaign. September was punctuated by a potentially season-defining home contest against, and subsequent loss to, top-ranked Ohio State. Both programs suffered an uncharacteristic tailspin to conclude the regular season. Yet, no team staggers into the post-season like the Hawkeyes' who have lost five of six.

"It's ironic because one of our focuses this year was getting off to a faster start," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "The last two years, we were 2-2 in the initial part of the season and then have done very well in October and November. This year, we got off to a better start. We were 5-1 during the first half and then the second half didn't go the way we chose to. We did not play well enough consistently in any phase. Our special teams didn't do much to distinguish themselves. Defensively, we gave up too many big plays to expect to win against good competition. On offense, we had more turnovers this year than we've had in any of our eight years at Iowa."

Texas reports to San Antonio on the afternoon of December 25.

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