College Football Overtime (cont.)
Colt McCoy: An appreciation
Despite the Longhorns' 11-0 record and No. 3 ranking, there hasn't been much reason lately to tune into a Texas game, mostly because coach Mack Brown's crew has been busy throttling overmatched opponents. Nevertheless, I tuned in for a good portion of Saturday night's Kansas game (until it got out of hand) to take in Colt McCoy's milestone moment.
On Senior Day at Royal-Memorial Stadium, McCoy shredded the 5-6 Jayhawks for 396 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-20 blowout that gave the Texas senior his NCAA-record 43rd victory as a starter (passing Georgia's David Greene). He celebrated afterward by shooting off the stadium cannon, then took a whack on Big Bertha, the oversized bass drum used by the Longhorns' band.
"I never shot the cannon or banged the drum before," he said. "It was sweet."
Call me sappy, but I feel like a parent who's watched his kid grow up. I was in Austin in August 2006 for Texas' preseason Media Day and semi-cringed at this lanky, soft-spoken, Opie-looking kid talking about the challenge of replacing Vince Young. "That kid is the starting quarterback?" I remember thinking. I returned a month later and watched him struggle badly in a 24-7 loss to No. 1 Ohio State.
But then McCoy started catching fire, and by November I was writing about the freshman's unlikely Heisman candidacy (he was putting up comparable stats to eventual winner Troy Smith). Two years later, I was there when he did earn an invitation to New York. And now it seems almost certain he'll be heading back.
After a frustrating first half of the season in which McCoy threw seven interceptions while struggling to regain his 2008 groove (when he posted an NCAA-record 77.6 completion percentage), McCoy has completed 77.0 percent of his passes over his past five games for 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.
In a recent conversation, McCoy admitted he was placing undue pressure on himself early on to live up to his team's and his own lofty expectations.
"It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through," he said. "You make the decision to come back [for senior year], you want to play perfect, then things don't start out the way you want to. It's frustrating. It took me six games or so to come out of that and rethink why I'm playing and have fun and enjoy the game."
McCoy also talked about the individual film work he did with some of Texas' more inexperienced receivers to get back in sync. Texas' passing game is extremely precision-based, and even a two-yard deviation from the assigned route can cause a missed connection. With Jordan Shipley the only significant contributor back from last year's receiving corps, McCoy had to get on the same page with guys like James Kirkendoll, Malcolm Williams and Marquise Goodwin.
Their improved timing was evident on numerous occasions on Saturday night. On Texas' first touchdown, it initially appeared McCoy couldn't find an open receiver, but it turned out he was merely waiting for Kirkendoll to gain some separation before lofting him a 41-yard touchdown pass. That score came on a series that began when Goodwin lined up to the outside, took two steps toward McCoy, turned up field, caught a middle screen in stride and dashed 34 yards.
"I don't think I've ever seen Colt any better," Brown said afterward. "I don't think we could have scripted it any better. With all the pressure on him, he's showing everybody he's in here for a big finish."
Smaller story, but I'm sure you're following it ...
Before you go penciling in another undefeated season for Boise State, you might want to take a closer look at the Broncos' upcoming opponent, Nevada. The Wolf Pack (8-3, 7-0 WAC) throttled New Mexico State 63-20 on Saturday for their eighth straight victory, the school's longest winning streak in 18 years. But it's not the fact that they're winning that's noteworthy; it's how they're doing it.
Simply put, Nevada has the most lethal rushing attack in the country.
Against the Aggies, Chris Ault's team ran 61 times for 574 yards. It's now averaging a national-best 373.2 yards per game on the ground, significantly higher than the next-closest team, Georgia Tech (314.1), despite the fact that the triple-option based Jackets have posted 106 more attempts. The Wolf Pack's 7.76 yards per carry obliterates that of the next-closest team, UAB (5.93).
Nevada doesn't run the triple-option, but it does have a trio of weapons: dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick (1,129 yards, 16 touchdowns) and running backs Vai Taua (1,185 yards, nine TDs) and Luke Lipincott (1,028 yards, nine TDs). Nevada is the first team in Division I-A history to boast three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.
Now, Ault takes his triple-headed monster to Boise, where the Wolf Pack haven't won since 1997. However, the last time the teams played there two years ago, they staged a historic four-overtime shootout the Broncos wound up winning 69-67 (the most combined points in a I-A game since 1937) in what was also then-freshman Kaepernick's first start for Nevada.
This year's Broncos boast a much better defense, one that shut down Oregon's prolific rushing attack back in the season opener. But that was a long time ago. Believe it or not, Nevada's first game was a shutout loss at Notre Dame -- and those guys don't exactly boast a stout run defense.
"We're taking a lot of momentum [to Boise]," said Ault. "They're the target that everybody shoots for. I'm proud we're playing for a [WAC] championship. You can't ask for anything more."
In last week's Mailbag, I fielded a question about Friday night's game and replied: "If the game was in Reno, I'd give Nevada a fighting chance, but knocking off Boise on the Smurf turf? Not likely." My opinion hasn't changed; it would be a huge upset if Nevada won. But those rushing stats sure give reason for pause.
Harvard 'Punts it In'
We know football isn't always the highest of priorities for the scholars of Cambridge, but someone really ought to explain the difference between an "extra point" and a "punt" to this particular student.
Lehigh band takes over library
Lehigh and Lafayette staged the 145th edition of the nation's longest continuous rivalry Saturday, with Lehigh pulling out a dramatic 27-21 overtime win. Perhaps this pregame performance inspired them.
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games
Texas at Texas A&M, Thursday (8 p.m. ET): The 'Horns shouldn't take this one lightly, despite what the Aggies' 100th-ranked defense suggests. For one thing, they lost there two years ago. For another, it figures to be an emotional night in College Station on this, the 10th anniversary of the Bonfire tragedy that killed 12 people.
Alabama at Auburn, Friday (2:30 p.m. ET): Last year's 36-0 Tide blowout in Tuscaloosa ultimately cost Tommy Tuberville his job. If Gene Chizik can spring the upset and prematurely end Alabama's national-title hopes, he'll be an Auburn hero. If not ... well, he better damn do it next year if he wants to keep his job.
Florida State at Florida, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): It's Tim Tebow's last home game. The Gators are playing for their first 12-0 season since 1995. It's Tim Tebow's last home game. Florida State's defense ranks 106th nationally. And oh, did we mention that it's Tim Tebow's last home game?
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