SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Colt McCoy was supposed be a placeholder for Texas at quarterback this season. Now, he's a record holder.
The redshirt freshman who replaced Vince Young turned in another gritty performance with two touchdown passes to rally the No. 18 Longhorns to a 26-24 victory Saturday over Iowa in the Alamo Bowl.
Most TD Passes by a Freshman Single season, I-A history
McCoy had been cleared to play just a week earlier after suffering a severely pinched nerve in his neck in each of Texas' last two games -- both losses. He also ran 8 yards on fourth down to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Selvin Young early in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game winner.
Vince Young left Texas a year early after leading the Longhorns to the national title last season, and McCoy became the starter before he had ever played a down in college.
"He stepped in a position replacing one of the best quarterbacks to ever play," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "To do that, and fight back and regain his confidence tonight shows just how tough Colt is."
McCoy finished 26-for-40 for 308 yards. His 29 touchdown passes this season tied the NCAA freshman record set by Nevada's David Neill in 1998.
"Coming into this season all you want to do is win," McCoy said. "That's what Vince taught me. You've got to make people believe."
Texas (10-3), the 2005 national champion, won at least 10 games for the sixth straight season and avoided its first three-game losing streak since 1999.
Drew Tate passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns, both to Andy Brodell, for the Hawkeyes (6-7), who lost six of their last seven games.
The Longhorns were heavy favorites in front of an Alamo Bowl record crowd of 65,875 that was mostly a sea of burnt-orange. Texas fans had an easy 70-mile drive from Austin.
But Iowa stunned them by taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and retaking the lead at 21-20 with 1:08 left in the third when Brodell scored his second touchdown on a 23-yard reception.
Brodell had six catches for 159 yards.
McCoy, who looked shaky early, had given Texas its first lead -- 20-14 -- with a 72-yard sideline strike to tailback Jamaal Charles in the third.
After Young's touchdown with just under 11 minutes left, Iowa pulled within 26-24 when Kyle Schlicher kicked a 38-yard field goal. The Hawkeyes then forced a punt and had the ball near midfield.
The Hawkeyes then got tripped up by their own trickery. Texas safety Marcus Griffin tackled Dominique Douglas for a 9-yard loss on a wide-receiver pass on first down. Iowa punted three plays later.
"A field goal wins the game," Brown said. "Then they got in trouble. It was the game-changing play."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz regretted calling the trick play.
"It's totally my fault. I'm sick over it," Ferentz said. "Guys competed that long and that hard and that put us in a bad situation."
Texas won its third straight bowl game and became the first team to win the Alamo Bowl after trailing at halftime.
Longhorns fans so disappointed by not making a third consecutive Bowl Championship Series game, will remember this one for McCoy's game effort.
Knocked down several times by Iowa's blitz-heavy pass rush, McCoy wasn't sharp at the start. He underthrew several receivers and looked tentative to run and risk another injury. The Longhorns didn't have another scholarship quarterback available if he got hurt.
"I knew I just had to put the injury behind me," McCoy said.
Tate was just the opposite, passing for 184 yards in the first half. He played high school football in Baytown, just outside of Houston, and his final college game was his first back in his home state.
"I knew he'd play good. He's a coach's son," Brown said. "When he started hot, I was just hoping we could knock him down a bit."
Longhorns fans were just starting to crank up their "Texas Fight!" chant when the Hawkeyes scored on their first two possessions. Albert Young set up the first with a 26-yard run then scored on the next play on the opening drive.
The Hawkeyes needed one play to strike again. Brodell took a short pass, faked out Texas cornerback Aaron Ross, the Thorpe Award winner, and outraced the Longhorns down the sideline for a 63-yard score.
"It felt like they were picking on me the whole game," Ross said.
He made up for it with an interception in the end zone.
"Ross is a playmaker. He can change a game at any given time," said Texas free safety Michael Griffin.
Texas followed with its first touchdown. McCoy floated a perfect pass to Limas Sweed for a 20-yard score just before halftime to make it 14-10.
"That was huge, It turned things around for us," McCoy said of Ross' pick. "Nobody gave up."