Before Saturday, sophomore quarterback Case McCoy had not completed a pass in his college career, and Texas had never beaten BYU. After Saturday, that all changed.
Junior quarterback Garrett Gilbert was pulled early in the second quarter following five fruitless possessions in favor of McCoy and freshman quarterback David Ash. With Gilbert taking the snaps against BYU, the Longhorns averaged less than two yards per play, got only one first down, turned the ball over twice (both Gilbert interceptions) and dug themselves a 13-0 hole. McCoy replaced him and made a two-quarterback system with Ash work as they helped Texas average five yards per play, and the Longhorns beat the Cougars, 17-16.
“When I was named backup quarterback, I knew I was one play away,” McCoy said. “I felt like our team rallied around me and David, and our team played really well tonight.”
When McCoy trotted on the field in the first half, Texas fans roared in approval, and the Longhorn sideline became much more animated. At halftime, Texas had been outscored 13-3 and out-gained 168-88, but they came out of the locker room an entirely different team.
“That’s two weeks in a row that we’ve started out how we didn’t want to start off,” McCoy said. “But I just said, ‘Calm down. We’ve been playing this game since seventh grade. Who cares if there’s 100,000 people out there? Play your game. Play hard. Just trust it.’”
It was no secret that Texas’ contest against BYU was a losable one. The Cougars defeated Ole Miss, 14-13, on the road and did not allow an offensive touchdown. Texas, like BYU last week, fell behind 13-0 but came back to win the game as McCoy saved his best throws for the biggest situations. With the Longhorns trailing 16-10 in the third quarter and facing a fourth-and-4, McCoy hit junior tight end D.J. Grant for five yards, Grant’s first career catch.
The following possession, McCoy completed passes of 14 and 20 yards to freshman Jaxon Shipley with the 20-yarder coming on third-and-9. Senior running back Cody Johnson capped the drive off with the go-ahead touchdown.
“We had a lot to prove,” said senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho.
Like their NFL-playing big brothers and former Longhorn legends Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley, McCoy and Shipley are roommates and displayed a unique chemistry on that pivotal scoring drive. They hooked up for long gains twice, the first of which saw McCoy squeeze the ball between three BYU defenders and the second of which was an impressive touch throw over the middle. Not to be left out, Shipley also showed off his throwing ability, hooking up with Ash on a critical third-down trick play that helped the Longhorns run the clock out in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve really been dreaming of playing together for a long time,” McCoy said.
“Jaxon made some clutch catches tonight, and he does that every day in practice. On third down, he’s a big target for us. They rolled to the coverages we needed, and we were able to connect.”
McCoy was also able to work well with Ash as they constantly raced back and forth between the huddle and sideline with Texas making 17 quarterback changes after Gilbert was yanked. Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin had said during the offseason that the Longhorns would not run a two-quarterback system, but he made it work against BYU.
“[A two-quarterback system] can work,” Ash said. “It’s all about Texas winning. The quarterbacks aren’t selfish. We’re selfless. We’re about helping this team win.”
The Texas coaches revealed how short Gilbert’s leash was on Saturday. Despite not having played against anyone other than Rice and missing on all three of his previous career pass attempts, McCoy proved that the Longhorns made the right decision by putting him in.
No one will know for sure until later this week, but a quarterback named McCoy could be leading the Longhorns once again.
Printed on September 12, 2011 as: McCoy, Ash relieve Gilbert, lead Texas to thrilling victory