McCoy Eyes the Prizes: National Title, Heisman Trophy
A lot at stake this Saturday
By Joe O'Connell,
4:29PM, Thu. Dec. 3, 2009
It all comes down to one game for Colt McCoy. His opponents are, in order: Nebraska, Tim Tebow, and Mark Ingram. The problem is he absolutely must beat the Cornhuskers, but there’s no guarantee said victory will seal a Heisman Trophy as his other two rivals stage an SEC death match.
The good news is a tough 49-39 win over the Aggies last Saturday vaulted McCoy to the top of the Heisman rankings for the first time this season (Heisman ballots are due Monday). McCoy threw for 304 yards and raced for another 175, including a 65-yard touchdown burst tailor-made for the highlight reel. The bad news is Nebraska’s defense is as stout as the Cornhusker offense is weak.
McCoy will have to snatch the Heisman from Florida’s QB Tebow, who already has one on his mantle and is currently second to McCoy in the Scripps Howard Heisman Trophy poll. Alabama’s ground hog Ingram has slipped to fifth in the poll, but a strong performance in the Florida-Alabama brawl this Saturday could change that. Don’t believe the aw-shucks hype. McCoy is a winner and he wants that Heisman. He can taste it. He also wants to play in the national title game against the Florida-Alabama survivor. That will require a solid performance against the Cornhuskers.
My favorite moment of the Aggie win: McCoy with his hand cradling the helmet of A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson, pulling close the man who almost single-handedly beat Texas and telling him what is ahead. Johnson shimmied downfield for 97 yards on the ground and 342 yards in the air, with a coming-out party that should have Ag fans dreaming of 2010. What was McCoy telling Johnson? Perhaps that this is only the beginning; the march is long and treacherous. McCoy knows. He’s a polite fighter who grins as he pummels you. Near the end of the Aggie win, he had his helmet on, his fingers itching to get one more shot at the end zone.
After it was over, McCoy told Coach Mack Brown that he was going off the grid for the weekend, hanging out in a deer blind hunting Bambi. “Colt just decided he’d better play and have fun and enjoy the moment,” Brown said at his weekly press conference about McCoy’s November turnaround from early-season jitters. “You have to go back and have fun. You have to enjoy the game. You have to play in the now. You have to understand you’ve got two games left to play.”
The Aggies hung close with Texas in an offensive firestorm, but no signs point to a replay against Nebraska. Instead, expect the Longhorn defense, which missed a season’s worth of tackles against the Ags, to step up and stop Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. cold. Meanwhile the Cornhusker D, which is not big on the blitz, will make things tough for McCoy. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh – early this season mentioned as a Heisman candidate – is a beast and Jared Crick is racking up the quarterback sacks. It should be a lower-scoring 24-7 Texas win, which may not aid McCoy’s Heisman pitch, but will vault the Horn dream season forward.
It won’t be easy. Cornhuskers are perhaps more polite than McCoy, but Texas sticks deep in their craws. Nebraska was Tom Osborne-led royalty before the rubes from Texas ruined everything in the Big 12’s first title game against the two-time defending national champion Cornhuskers in 1996. The Horns were 19-point underdogs. I was on a bus coming back from the Mexican border and searching the Austin skyline frantically for the UT Tower that night. It shone like a burnt-orange beacon. I rushed home to my VCR and watched then-coach John Mackovic roll the dice on fourth and inches. He instructed James Brown to throw a magical 61-yard pass to Derek Lewis that marked a seachange. In 1998, Texas traveled to No. 7 Nebraska and about-to-be Heisman winner Ricky Williams embarrassed the home crowd with 157 yards rushing in a 20-16 victory. Sure, Nebraska exacted some small revenge with a 22-6 win in the 1999 Big 12 title game, but by then the Nebraska dynasty was effectively toast and Osborne had already flown the coop into retirement.
What does Texas need to win this time? Solid defense and perhaps one more nonoffensive touchdown. Marquis Goodwin’s 95-yard kickoff return broke the Aggies’ backs. The Longhorns will need more of the same against Nebraska, and expect at least one Texas TD to be scored by the defense. Texas also needs to take control of field position. The punt return defense against A&M was porous and pitiful But, make no mistake, McCoy’s performance will seal the deal. The Heisman and a spot in the national title game is on the line. Listen to your Zen coach and play in the now.