Longhorns keeping QB rotation for Sooners
AUSTIN, Texas—For a Texas quarterback, there is no quicker way to winning the hearts of Longhorns fans than to beat Oklahoma.
Take Peter Gardere, for example. From 1989-1992, Gardere went 25-16 as the Texas starter and is still known as "Peter the Great" for beating the Sooners four times in a row.
In 2006, Colt McCoy was still a fresh-faced country boy replacing Texas hero Vince Young when he rallied the Longhorns to the first of his three career victories over the Sooners. That win was just the beginning of McCoy's love affair with Texas fans.
McCoy's younger brother, Case, can take a big step in that direction Saturday but he won't be alone.
The Longhorns (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) plan to stick with their quarterback rotation against the No. 3 Sooners (4-0, 1-0) in Dallas, which means sophomore McCoy will be sharing time with freshman David Ash. Oklahoma will have junior quarterback Landry Jones, who will be playing his third game against Texas
The intensity of the Red River Rivalry has overwhelmed many first-year starting quarterbacks. Texas coach Mack Brown acknowledged the advantage for Oklahoma but didn't sound the least bit worried about his youngsters.
"They are ready for this," Brown said. "You never know what's going to happen in a game like this. But there's no doubt the pressure's also on them more than us because of that. I mean, they're supposed to win and we're getting better. That's fact, whether you like it or not. If you think, would I rather have a five-year quarterback or a freshman and sophomore, yes."
McCoy, who started the last two games after taking over for Garrett Gilbert, grew up watching his brother play the Sooners and is familiar with the rivalry's frenzied atmosphere in the Cotton Bowl. The fans are split evenly at the 50-yard line and the pressure never lets up.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables compared Case McCoy to Colt, who beat the Sooners in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Like his older brother, Case McCoy is considered a playmaker who keeps plays alive by scrambling out of trouble and has a knack for finding open receivers in the nick of time.
"He's got `it,'" said Venables, who probably thought he was done with the McCoy family for good. "It's easy to see. You hate it. It's like `Oh my God, these guys.'"
Ash, whose teammates call him "Dash," was primarily considered the better runner in the first three games. Now the Texas coaching staff is starting to open the playbook. Ash and McCoy split snaps against Iowa State over the weekend and both were 7 of 12 passing. Ash also threw two touchdowns.
Brown said he sees no reason not to use a similar rotation against the Sooners.
"It's who we are right now," Brown said. "It takes pressure off both quarterbacks because neither one has to carry the whole thing on his shoulders. If somebody has a hot hand you just might leave them in. But if a guy struggles, you don't have to leave him in."
Texas running back Fozzy Whittaker said having McCoy and Ash ready to jump in should help keep the Sooners off balance.
"I feel like having Case and Dash back there provides some versatility for us," Whittaker said. "It will be harder for Oklahoma to stop because they will have to game plan for two quarterbacks."
The game has been known to get the best of even good quarterbacks.
Texas' Chris Simms went 26-6 as starter but was part of three straight losses to the Sooners. Texas was using a Simms-Major Applewhite rotation in 2000 when Oklahoma romped 63-14 (Applewhite started) and Simms started and finished losses in 2001 and 2002.
Simms was the first Texas quarterback since Bobby Layne in the 1940s to beat rival Texas A&M three times in his career, but his legacy was severely tarnished by the losses in the Cotton Bowl.
Young went 30-2 as a starter with one of those losses coming in a 12-0 defeat to the Sooners in 2004, Texas' first shutout loss in 25 years. Some Texas fans said Young should move to wide receiver.
He never lost another game in leading the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford beat Texas as a freshman in 2007 but lost in 2008, the same year he won the Heisman Trophy, and was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury in 2009.
Ash told his teammates he has watched Texas-Oklahoma on TV but never attended the game. That means he has never pushed through the fans on the State Fair midway to get to the stadium, never been close to the teams storming onto the field through the same tunnel and never heard the ceaseless roar from the crowd.
Linebacker Emmanuel Acho told Ash to be ready for anything. Every touchdown, turnover and momentum shift can be matched in a heartbeat.
"Just don't be shocked by anything," Acho said "Just make sure you stay level-headed throughout the game."