Dialed-in McCoy, Longhorns survive another test
AUSTIN, Texas -- Here in the midst of the Schedule Stretch From Hell, a significant number of chesty Texas fans looked at Oklahoma State and saw a relative breather.
Oklahoma on Oct. 11? Annual Armageddon.
Missouri on Oct. 18? The Tigers won 12 games last year and spent the first half of this season ranked ahead of the Longhorns, so they were respected.
Texas Tech next week? Many prognosticators said this was the year the Red Raiders moved past the Longhorns in the Big 12 South, and it's an in-state rival, so they'll be primed for that game as well.
But Oklahoma State? The school that hadn't beaten the Horns in 11 years, and had only beaten them twice ever? The Cowboys were 7-0 and ranked sixth in the BCS standings coming in here, but how difficult could this game really be? After surviving 28-24 in a contest that went down to an unsuccessful Oklahoma State Hail Mary pass on the final play, Texas coach Mack Brown had a message for the overconfident crowd.
"You all are fools," Brown said. "Absolute fools."
Brown said he even heard some people talking during the week about a burnt orange blowout.
"It's really an advantage when you don't watch film," he said. "Because then you can be stupid."
Brown watched the film. He knew this would be a battle. He saw a balanced offense, an underrated defense and a team playing with great confidence coming into arguably the biggest game in Oklahoma State history.
Then they kicked off, and the Cowboys were even better in person. They played like they belonged on this big stage. They were damn good in defeat.
"This is not the same Oklahoma State team we've played the last few years," Brown said.
"Hey, my hat's off to them," said relentless Longhorns defensive end Brian Orakpo. "That's a great team we just played."
Another in a three-game series of great teams Texas has played. With one more to go. The Longhorns are 75 percent of the way through the midseason meat grinder with their perfect record and No. 1 ranking intact. The Horns remain rock solid.
At the risk of sounding like one of Brown's absolute fools, I'll say it: If they beat the Red Raiders in Lubbock, they're home free. Bevo goes to South Beach.
The closing trio of opponents -- Baylor, at Kansas, Texas A&M -- pose no significant threat. A potential Big 12 championship game rematch with Missouri wouldn't be 35-0 at halftime the second time around, but it should be a Texas victory.
And 13-0 in this league, against this schedule, would ice a trip to the title game. There would be no controversy attached to Texas, no matter who else was undefeated.
"It's great for us to have the schedule we've got right now," said wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who carved up the Cowboys for 15 receptions and 168 yards. "As long as we win every ballgame, they can't take it from us."
So now Texas Tech and its insanely productive offense loom large. The Red Raiders scored 63 points at Kansas Saturday -- but that wasn't enough to worry Texas defensive tackle Roy Miller.
"Well," he said, "we're not Kansas."
Hard to see Tech scoring 63 against this defense, which just held Oklahoma State 22 points below its season average. But the Red Raiders will score -- they do against everybody.
The question is what in the world they're going to do with Colt McCoy.
Through Texas' first six possessions Saturday, McCoy was ridiculously good. He led the Horns to four touchdowns and completed 30 of 33 passes -- including a school-record 18 straight at one point. Go back to last week's dissection of Missouri and McCoy was 59-of-65 (91 percent accuracy) across a span of 15 possessions, with a couple of drops and batted balls in there. On those drives, Texas scored 77 points.
"I've never seen anything like this," Brown said of his quarterback's Heisman-leading tear.
Third downs are supposed to be anxiety time for quarterbacks, but they were nothing of the sort for McCoy on Saturday. Texas was 11-of-14 converting third downs against the Cowboys.
I asked Brown whether he can appreciate his quarterback's artistry while it's occurring during a game. His response: "I appreciate every third-and-6."
McCoy is so dialed in with receivers Shipley and Quan Cosby that even when things go wrong, they end up right. McCoy's touchdown pass to Cosby in the second quarter was a perfect example.
Cosby got an inside release off the line of scrimmage and was looking over his left shoulder for the pass. McCoy threw it over the right shoulder, which necessitated a difficult adjustment that left Cosby falling down on his back. Naturally, the ball hit him in the chest as he was going down for six.
"As much as the catch looked good, the ball was perfect," Cosby said. "Only I could get it."
McCoy went mortal a couple of times after that overwhelming start Saturday, throwing an interception, fumbling in the red zone and having another pick called back by an Oklahoma State roughing the passer penalty. But every QB in the country will take 38-of-45 for 391 yards and two touchdowns, plus 41 rushing yards and another score.
"I felt like there were a couple of series where we played pretty good, but he still found a way to make plays," said Cowboys linebacker Andre Sexton.
The biggest play was also the boldest call of the day. On a third-and-9 from the Oklahoma State 26 with 1 minute, 50 seconds to play, you figured Texas would run the ball and kick a field goal for a 31-24 lead.
Instead, offensive coordinator Greg Davis put it on McCoy's golden arm. He called a fake screen which had Shipley sprinting to the sideline from the slot as if he were throwing a block, then cutting upfield. McCoy laid the ball in beautifully for a 20-yard gain that ultimately pinned the Cowboys on their 1-yard line with 33 seconds left. "I trust him with my paycheck," Davis said of McCoy. The check hasn't bounced yet. Now Texas is one win away from surviving the Schedule Stretch From Hell, and one win closer to taking Bevo to South Beach.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.