October 9, 2008

Colt McCoy is ready to stare down OU

In 2005, Vince Young accounted for 61.4 percent of the Texas Longhorns' offense and 35 percent of its scoring. Three years later, through five games, Colt McCoy makes up 67.7 percent of the team's offense and 50.8 percent of its scoring.

The first thought through everyone's mind is undoubtedly that nothing happen to McCoy this season. Secondly, how much heaped on one player's shoulders is too much? And can McCoy assume that big of a role on Saturday against top-ranked Oklahoma?

If the current trend holds, McCoy will have to essentially carry the offense single-handedly on Saturday. But he's up for the challenge.

"I think we'll have to take some deep shots and do some different things to spread the field, so they don't pile into the box," McCoy said. "But in a big game like this, you're playing on the run. You're switching up things. You're on the headsets after each series figuring out what they're doing. But this is why everyone comes here because you get to play in big games like this, and it's a lot of fun."


McCoy is still the leading rusher for the Longhorns - by more than 100 yards (he's got 317 and Cody Johnson has 193). McCoy's 7-yard rushing average on 45 attempts also dwarfs the two backs with the most carries - Johnson and Vondrell McGee both have 50 carries and are averaging 3.9 and 3.7 ypc, respectively.

"Last year maybe he went through some ups and downs," said Oklahoma defensive end Auston English. "It looks like maybe he went in the weight room, gained some weight and speed and really took it upon himself to be the leader of the offense. He leads his team in rushing and has done a great job for their offense."

Added OU coach Bob Stoops, "Texas is playing really well on both sides of the ball, and everyone really talks about Colt McCoy. Rightfully so, as he has had a great year and has been very efficient in distributing the ball."


McCoy has become Texas' Tim Tebow, who accounted for 70.3 percent of his team's offense (4,181 of the team's 5,943 yards) last year and 59.8 percent of its scoring (330 of 552 points) while winning the Heisman Trophy last season.

Running backs coach Major Applewhite, whose backs are still finding their way in the offense, said that's OK.

"Each year the offense is different," Applewhite said. "When we had Ricky Williams, we tried to run the ball 40 times a game because he was a great running back. When you have a guy who makes decisions and is as accurate as Colt, to sit there and have him throw the ball only 14 or 15 times the way some schools do would be foolish.

"So you've got to let your best players do what they do. For us that's throwing the football and doing things in the passing game with the running back and then picking our spots in the running game. So it would be foolish to have Colt throw it 15 times and then force-feed the run game when Colt, Quan (Cosby), Jordan (Shipley) and Chris (Ogbonnaya) are doing great things in the passing game."

All true. But Texas has to get rushing yards somehow, and last year OU took away McCoy's ability to run. He was sacked four times and finished with minus-24 yards rushing (because the sack losses count against the rushing totals in college football).

McCoy burned the OU defense for 324 yards passing last year with two touchdowns and one interception that slipped through the hands of running back Jamaal Charles. Charles was the team's leading rusher against OU last year with 17 carries for 79 yards (4.6 ypc) but had a critical fumble on the goal line to start the third quarter with the game tied 14-14.

"It's important to know how valuable the ball is," McCoy said. "We gave the defense a short field (against Colorado), and you saw how tremendous they handled it. That builds confidence in both sides. In such a big game like the Texas-OU game, you have to limit the mistakes. In this game, mistakes become even more visible."

Last week, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin became the first player to rush for 100 yards against OU (102). All but four of Griffin's rush yards came after OU was up 28-0, however.

"McCoy is a great quarterback who is very accurate, completing 80 percent of his passes," said Oklahoma cornerback Brian Jackson. "We are aiming to go out there and change that. We have to contain him just like we did against Griffin at Baylor. Griffin had a lot of speed, probably more than McCoy, but we will prepare in the right ways to contain him."


As Applewhite pointed out, Texas' proven playmakers surrounding McCoy in this game will be receivers Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley and running back Chris Ogbonnaya, who is still more of a receiving threat than he is a running threat. McCoy knows someone else will also have to step up - most likely a receiver like James Kirkendoll or Brandon Collins.

"They're going to give us open spots, but they're going to make us search for them," McCoy said. "And most of the time they're going to be guys who haven't played as much. And a lot of the time it's going to be the wide side of the field, where we have guys rotate in and out. Those guys are going to have to be sharp.

"OU will probably play a lot of zone, but also get down in some man. The key is understanding what they want to do to us. It may take a couple series, but then you start to understand. We've seen all the looks in five games, now we just have to execute."


No one gave Texas much of a chance in last year's game. UT was a 12-point underdog. If not for a couple, second-half turnovers, the Longhorns might have won the game. Afterward, in the locker room, McCoy gave a tearful postgame speech telling his teammates how much he believed in them and asking for everyone to give more of themselves. This year, Texas is a 7-point underdog in the Red River Shootout.

"We went through so many ups and downs (last year)," McCoy said. "Played good, played bad. So many injuries. Now, we're at the point where everyone is responding to each other. We're playing well. We're clicking as an offense and defense. The defense is playing great, and this team is really close. We've set ourselves up to be in the position we want to be. And that's undefeated and on a roll."


Much of the focus is on McCoy, the nation's fourth-rated passer, against OU's Sam Bradford, the nation's second-rated passer. It's being dubbed a Heisman Trophy elimination game. McCoy said he's ignoring the hype.

"I don't focus on that," he said. "I focus on our team. I focus on practice. I focus on preparing. I focus on doing the little things right every play for us to be successful. I won't watch any TV this week. I won't look at the paper. I don't ever look at the paper. I tell the young guys don't look at this game any differently from the others."

McCoy, who is completing 79.2 percent of his passes, said even though the UT offense is struggling to find a tight end, a 20-carry running back and a No. 3 receiver, confidence is high. And why not? Texas is No. 6 nationally in scoring offense (47.2 ppg), just behind Oklahoma at No. 4 (49.6 ppg).

"Confidence can carry us a lot," McCoy said. "If you don't have confidence, you can't win. You can be overconfident, but we're not that. We're confident in what we do as an offense. We're confident in Coach Davis and what he calls, and we're confident in understanding our personnel and how we need to execute to score points."


One thing is clear, if McCoy is going to have to carry the load offensively, he's a guy who thrives in this game. In two starts against OU, McCoy is 30 of 44 passing (68.2 percent) for 432 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. In 2006, McCoy helped rally Texas from a 10-7 halftime deficit for a 28-10 win - one of his eight, second-half comebacks at UT.

"It's a big game," McCoy said. "We all know that. But the preparation is all the same. It's a conference game, a rivalry game. But we're treating this just like any other game. Now it's OU week. It's a fun week because we know what's at stake.

"They're No. 1. They are deserving of No. 1 - what a great opportunity for us to go in there and beat 'em. That's how we feel. We're preparing, and it's going to be an awesome game. I can't wait."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!