BIG 12 TITLE GAME: A New Jolt of Colt

By at December 3, 2009 | 2:43 AM | Print

So there was Texas quarterback Colt McCoy on the floor of the Cotton Bowl, picking himself off the turf after another blitz by Oklahoma, his fingernail falling off, his chest heaving from a respiratory illness, his Heisman Trophy chances being torn into a 100 little pieces like a cheating lover's note: Angrily, with sharp and audible rips.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. With some stalker threatening bodily harm off the field, with the Sooners inflicting so much on it. How many hours did McCoy spend in film study? How many interviews did he do over the summer? And this was the reward? He was grinding so hard, trying too hard, forcing passes that weren't there, throwing bad interceptions, trying to live up to a ridiculous, jaw-dropping junior season of statistical performance against team that were way below the Longhorns pay grade.

“We weren't very good early in the season because we were erratic at receiver, and we were running inconsistent routes,” UT head coach Mack Brown said. “The quarterback needs to trust his receivers. And that wasn't happening. We had some injuries in the offensive line, we had a different running back playing every week. He's such a perfectionist, and he had such a great junior year that he just thought it was going to happen.”

And then, finally, the Red River game, his coming out party in 2008, the day he outdueled buddy Sam Bradford. And McCoy played like he did too often in 2007: Indecisive, harried, small, frustrated. Texas won 16-13, with little thanks to McCoy, whose team needed Bradford's second shoulder injury – and some equally bad quarterbacking from Landry Jones, to escape.

You're better than this, McCoy told himself.

“I had the weight of the world on my shoulders,” he said.

So in the between OU and the game at Missouri, McCoy didn't put in more work. He put in less. He went home earlier. Didn't watch as much film. Tried to get so more rest, more laughs.

And it worked. The kid had his fill of pressure, so he let some air out of the tires. UT went to Columbia frustrated, uncertain team. It emerged with a 41-7 blowout win that remains the Longhorns' strongest overall performance to date.

“We went up to Missouri – we had two road games away from Austin – and we just had to bond as a unit, as an offense, and really as a team,” McCoy said. “From that point on, we just basically started the season over. We just said 'We're better than this; we're capable of being the best offense in the country. Let's pull together.'”

Since OU, McCoy's reset himself on the 2008 pace: 154-209, 1,791 yards, 16 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 277 rushing yards. Had he posted those numbers in the first half of the season, the Heisman race would be over. As it is, he's a giant favorite, because he's hot at the right time, his team is undefeated and the media outside of two CBS broadcasters is getting Tim Tebow jet lag.

Now that he's healthy – besides the respiratory illness, McCoy battled the flu in September – he's back to being a dual threat. His short passes are eerily accurate; McCoy rarely leaves the ball on the wrong side of his receivers. As 175 rushing yards vs. Texas A&M showed, he's still got the jets to run. Brown said UT struggled, too, with its offensive identity earlier this season – it happens to the best of the programs, you know? – but inserted a tight end to help develop the running game.

“Last year, we were running down the field in four and five-wide, and now we've become a more physical offense,” Brown said. “We can get the ball downfield and have better protection out of playaction.”

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