Commentary

Horns, McCoy take another step

Originally Published: November 21, 2009
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas' 51-20 rout of Kansas on Saturday night very well could have been "Colt McCoy Night."

McCoy not only was playing his final game at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, but also broke one of the NCAA's most underrated records. With his 43rd career victory, McCoy became the winningest quarterback in major college football history.

"To win more games than anyone else that's ever played that position in college football is quite an honor," Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "I am like a proud father."

The largest crowd ever to watch the Longhorns play at home paid its respects to McCoy. After throwing for 396 yards and four touchdowns, he left the field with 5:52 to play.

[+] EnlargeColt McCoy
AP Photo/Darren Abate Colt McCoy had plenty to smile about after setting the FBS record with 43 wins as a starting QB.

Before McCoy went to the bench for good, the crowd gave him a Texas-sized tribute. On the enormous video screen on the scoreboard, McCoy was shown standing with Longhorns coach Mack Brown on the sideline. Brown playfully shook his quarterback's head, then McCoy raised his hands above his head and showed the crowd a pair of Hook 'Em Horns signs.

Brown sent his quarterback onto the field once more but then called timeout and summoned his seniors to the sideline. The crowd serenaded McCoy with chants of "Colt! Colt! Colt!" and his night was done.

After the No. 3 Longhorns finished off the Jayhawks to improve to 11-0, McCoy joined his teammates in the end zone to sing "The Eyes of Texas." Then, McCoy took a lap around the field, walking slowly to reach into the stands and shake as many hands as he could.

When McCoy finally reached the other end zone, he beat Big Bertha, the Longhorn Band's drum, and even fired Smokey the Cannon.

"I've never hit the drum, and I've never shot the cannon," McCoy said. "They've always wanted me to pull the cannon, but I was afraid I'd get a 15-yarder. I guess that was the perfect time to do it."

McCoy had never won a championship of any kind at Texas, either. But by defeating the Jayhawks, the Longhorns clinched the Big 12 South title. They earned a trip to play Nebraska in the Dec. 5 Big 12 championship game in Dallas.

If Texas beats rival Texas A&M on the road on Thanksgiving Day (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) and then beats the Cornhuskers in two weeks, it will be all but assured of playing in the Jan. 7 BCS National Championship Game.

Having a chance to win his first Big 12 title and the school's second national championship in five years is more important than anything else, McCoy said.

"We just put a number on the board for the Big 12 South," McCoy said, referring to the Longhorns' tradition of honoring their championship teams on the wall of the team's meeting room. "We've got a chance to put a number up there for undefeated season and Big 12 champions. If we take care of those, we'll get a chance for the national championship. It's a special time right now."

McCoy wasn't sure the Longhorns would be in this position after they struggled to beat rival Oklahoma 16-13 on Oct. 17. During a team meeting before the Missouri game the next week, Brown called a few of his players to the front of the room.

Brown handed one of them a Popsicle stick and asked him to break it. The stick broke easily. Other players duplicated the feat until Brown handed one of them a couple of dozen sticks wrapped in rubber bands. The player couldn't break the sticks.

"It's the 'power of one,'" McCoy said. "We're all in for every down, every snap and every practice. We're all in this together."

Brown then asked each of his players to sign a two-by-four. McCoy carries the autographed board from the team's hotel to the stadium before every game.

[+] EnlargeTexas
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images No. 3 Texas is 11-0 after jumping past Kansas on Saturday.

"The 'power of one' is everybody doing their jobs for the team and not themselves," Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston said. "It's about sticking together no matter what. That's what it means."

In the five games since Brown's motivational ploy, McCoy has played spectacularly, completing 76.9 percent of his passes for 1,487 yards with 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His passer rating during that stretch is 175.8.

With strong outings against Texas A&M and Nebraska, McCoy might emerge as the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. He finished second to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in 2008.

"I don't think we could have scripted it any better," Brown said. "He is in here for a big finish, and he was sending that message tonight."

But if the Longhorns are to accomplish what eluded them last season -- they were left out of the BCS National Championship Game after losing a controversial Big 12 South tiebreaker to the Sooners -- they'll need more than just McCoy.

Texas' running game still leaves a lot to be desired. The Longhorns came into the game averaging 153.8 yards per game, which ranked 55th nationally, and they mustered only 136 yards against the Jayhawks. Texas averaged only 3.4 yards on 40 rushing attempts.

The Longhorns probably would have to run the football better to beat either No. 1 Florida or No. 2 Alabama in the BCS title game.

But at least Texas isn't so one-dimensional in the passing game anymore. Senior Jordan Shipley, McCoy's roommate, had been the team's only reliable pass-catcher during the first half of the season. Against Kansas, four players caught three or more passes, and McCoy completed 32 passes to seven different players.

Junior James Kirkendoll caught two touchdowns, including a 41-yarder, and sophomore Malcolm Williams had a 68-yard touchdown catch.

"It's huge for us," McCoy said. "They just can't key on Jordan. When those guys are playing at a high level and we're getting protection, we're really hard to stop."

Texas' defense is much better in coordinator Will Muschamp's second season, too. The Longhorns came into the game ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense (232.3 yards per game) and run defense (50.4), and seventh in scoring (12.6 points per game).

Even after a night when his defense surrendered 47 rushing yards and sacked Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing five times, Muschamp was clearly upset with its performance.

"On third down, we didn't get off the field in the first half, and we didn't tackle in the second half," Muschamp said. "We haven't done that all year."

But Muschamp knows the Longhorns are better equipped to beat a team like Alabama or Florida this season. "I'll take my guys against anybody," Muschamp said.

And the Longhorns will take their quarterback over anyone else's, too.

But to win a national championship, Texas knows it'll need more than just McCoy.

"The guy is Superman, but he can't do it by himself," defensive end Sergio Kindle said.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball

ALSO SEE