The decision may have saved Texas's season. Trailing BYU 13--0 in the second quarter last Saturday, Longhorns coach Mack Brown benched starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert to give backups David Ash, a freshman, and Case McCoy, a sophomore, a chance to awaken the team's slumbering offense—a deep sleep that stretches back to last season. With Ash and McCoy splitting time throughout the second half, Texas gutted out an improbable 17--16 victory. This was precisely the kind of grinding game that the Longhorns failed to pull out in 2010, when they suffered their first losing season (5--7) since 1997.
Though Texas escaped with a win, there is still uncertainty under center. Ash (2 of 3, 35 yards and 36 yards rushing) and McCoy (7 of 8, 57 yards) replaced each other on virtually every play. Neither stood out, but arguably the two most important passes were thrown by McCoy to Shipley—sound familiar?—in this case freshman receiver Jaxon Shipley, who made two fourth-quarter grabs that led to the go-ahead touchdown. The poise and patience shown by what Longhorns fans are already calling McAsh make the tandem the team's best quarterback option. For now.
Texas coaches have reached the same conclusion. On Monday, Brown said that McCoy would start against UCLA on Saturday but released a depth chart that listed Ash as a co-starter. Gilbert, who had as many interceptions as completions (two) in eight attempts against the Cougars, was demoted to third team, suggesting that the end of the Gilbert era in Austin seems closer than ever.
No matter who is the quarterback, the Longhorns aren't going to have anyone in Norman, College Station or Stillwater shaking in their boots after last Saturday. "We're not a great team but we're 2--0," Brown said. "Every game is going to be 17--16 or 20--17, which is what I thought we'd have last year but didn't. We didn't panic tonight."
No they didn't. Texas isn't going to win the Big 12, but with a stout defense and a few rising young players on offense, like Shipley and running back Malcolm Brown, it has the look of a team that, with a little more seasoning, can at least play the role of spoiler.