After Saturday’s season-rejuvenating win against Oklahoma, expectations for 2013 are suddenly being recalibrated. Even the hardiest gloom-and-doomers are taking a second look at the schedule and seeing that maybe a Bowl Championship Series or Cotton Bowl berth is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
The disappointments against BYU and Ole Miss are distant specks in the rear-view mirror as the Longhorns sit atop the Big 12, tied with Texas Tech at 3-0. The offense converted 13 of 20 third downs against Oklahoma and Greg Robinson’s defense gave its best performance of the season.
Another mark of a team that’s clicking? Three penalties for 15 yards. The tackling is improved, and missed assignments on the offensive line are diminishing week by week. Senior kicker Anthony Fera has missed just one field goal all season, and sophomore running back/wide receiver Daje Johnson’s punt return touchdown on Saturday was the first UT special teams score of the year.
The Longhorns are on a three-game roll and have three more should-wins coming up in TCU, Kansas and West Virginia. A 6-2 start, unthinkable even after the win over Kansas State, is now the projected baseline heading into the final three games.
Two embattled men have shouldered much of the load after a disappointing start. But their efforts in the last few weeks have earned head coach Mack Brown and senior quarterback Case McCoy the right to finish this season without any more speculation as to the security of their respective jobs.
Brown’s faith in his team and his optimism after two tough losses reveal what we know and love about the man — his loyalty and accountability to his players and the University. But even if Brown now runs the table and the Longhorns finish 11-2, the new athletic director will probably want Brown out and a new face in.
This season, Brown has brought the Longhorns back from the cliff of irrelevancy and safely into the hot air balloon basket of a team on a winning streak. Barring the errant Scud missile of a conference upset, we could see an important game in Austin on Thanksgiving.
McCoy has almost always done his job pretty well, but that has rarely been enough to satisfy the orange army. A 63.1 percent completion percentage, 7.3 yards per pass attempt and 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions for his career should be enough. But McCoy isn’t his brother, and Texas fans seem to hold that against him.
Aside from the obvious concerns for junior quarterback David Ash’s health, the question of who should be behind center has been resolved by McCoy’s play.
McCoy has never sulked about being bounced in and out of the starting lineup, and he has performed well enough and won enough games that he should be the man this season — even if Ash recovers and returns to practice.
The quarterback and his coach have both earned the right to try and finish the comeback and get the Longhorns to a meaningful bowl game. Brown has righted the ship, and McCoy should get to pilot it.