When Colt McCoy left Jones AT&T Stadium last weekend, he left his Heisman Trophy frontrunner status and a part of his mouth called the frenulum behind.
"I don't think that thing really does anything in your mouth anyways," McCoy said of the connective tissue between the gum and upper lip. "It was just hanging there, so they got some tweezers, pulled it out and put it on the ground."
But in the post-game press conference, with a busted lip covered in dried blood, there was McCoy talking about how "awesome" his teammates are and how hard they fought and how they still had so much to play for. This is all minutes after watching Graham Harrell[db] and [db]Michael Crabtree stomp on UT's heart as if crushing grapes for wine.
"Losing as a competitor is the worst feeling you can have," McCoy said. "True character comes with how you respond. So you put a smile on your face, encourage and be happy. You can't change anything that's happened.
"When you step in the locker room or the training room or in the team room, guys' eyes are looking at you. 'Is he hanging his head? Is he down? Or is he encouraging?' They are going to act the way you are. They are going to respond the way you are. That's definitely important."
ASKING FOR MORE
As if McCoy hasn't been asked to do enough this season with his 79 percent completion rate (he's the nation's No. 4 rated passer), and his 23 touchdown passes with five interceptions. Now, he has to jumpstart an offense that lost its identity in the first half of the Texas Tech game, helping put the team in a 19-0 and 22-3 hole. Most importantly, as he said, he has to be the team's spiritual guide - a cross between Dr. Phil and a warrior from the movie 300.
That's because he could be leading a bunch of youth at the skill positions on Saturday. Quan Cosby is not likely to play. Chris Ogbonnaya may also be held out. That means more rotation at receiver for Brandon Collins, James Kirkendoll and Malcolm Williams.
BRING ON THE FOZZ
It could also mean a healthy dose of Foswhitt Whittaker at running back. Whittaker averaged 7.0 yards per carry against Texas Tech (six carries for 42 yards, including a long of 21 yards on UT's last scoring drive). Asked why Whittaker didn't get his first carry until the third quarter, McCoy said, "Not sure."
Greg Davis said he, too, regretted not playing Whittaker more, earlier in the game.
"The only concern with Fozz is size - if he gets caught in a blitz mismatch," Davis said. "Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't . It wouldn't be a concern about him being physical and sticking his face in there, just size sometimes."
But Jordan Shipley talked about how Whittaker can bench press 300 pounds, even though he weighs 190 and can push 500 on the leg presses.
"Pound for pound, he's one of the strongest guys on the team," Shipley said.
Whittaker is averaging 6.7 yards per carry this season. It's time to see what he can do because coaches say he's healthy. Especially if Ogbonnaya needs a blow with the bum ankle.
RUNNING GAME SPUTTERS
Davis is still trying to figure out how best to run the football. The counter was the most productive run for Texas last weekend, but Davis runs it out of 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three wides) and 12 personnel. Those personnel groupings were not kind to Texas in the passing game. Texas gave up two of its four sacks in those personnel groupings, suffered half of its seven drops and also gave up a safety.
"We went back to the tight end set," McCoy said. "The counter play worked great. And that's in the tight end set. And some of our successful passing stuff that we had been doing wasn't in the tight end set, so we were a little bit shaky here and there. But that's on us. We should be able to execute that because we've run that since I've been here."
NOW HE KNOWS
Davis had always told Colt the run game was essential to the success of the passing game. Colt had privately always doubted this theory to some extent. But not after being slammed to the turf repeatedly in the Tech game.
"Colt on Sunday said, 'I understand now,'" Davis said. "He said, 'I've always disagreed with you a little bit about how the run helps pass protection.' I said, 'I've done this once or twice.'"
Added McCoy, "We've got to get the run game going better. If I haven't felt it all season long, I felt it last week because you get those linebackers matched up underneath with your run-down throws and we weren't able to run consistently, that gives a defense a lot of confidence in shutting down our passing game."
A LACK OF FOCUS
Davis said the dropped passes were a lack of focus. It's plausible in that environment last weekend (picture the Oakland Raiders' Black Hole filling an entire stadium - when the Raiders were Super Bowl contenders, of course). Losing Brian Orakpo, Quan Cosby and playing Chris Ogbonnaya on a bum ankle and getting out of the four-wide flex personnel grouping that had been so good to UT.
Saturday, the Longhorns are at home. They know some players will be missing. They've had all week to build up young players and to build up each other. Coaches hit the players hard on Tuesday to shake them out of their doldrums. Sergio Kindle, Lamarr Houston and Will Muschamp gave fiery speeches to the defense that resonated with the players.
TIME FOR A YOUTH MOVEMENT
So this weekend is about youthful energy taking its lead from veteran experience. Not only on offense, but on defense. Without Orakpo, this is a week for Sam Acho and Eddie Jones to deliver. They will be tested by Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin, who will expose Texas' defense if it is at all feeling sorry for itself after last weekend.
"He's doing for Baylor what Vince Young did for us as a freshman," Mack Brown said.
MOVING ON WITHOUT COSBY
McCoy didn't mince words. Losing Cosby last weekend threw him off. Davis said there were times, McCoy hung with Cosby after his injury on a crossing route when it was clear Cosby wasn't moving well enough to get open and took a sack on the play.
"Any time you lose a starter, it hurts because there's a reason he's starting," Davis said. "You think he's better than the guy behind him. There's also a security factor. On that the slant pass that Malcolm Williams caught for a touchdown, we had the same thing called earlier in the ballgame and the inside receiver, which was Quan, was on a runaway slant.
"We thought we would get the coverage we got both times. On a runaway slant, Quan is running a shallow slant. Colt hung with Quan because of who it was and the backer stayed in his back pocket because Quan couldn't run. Colt got out of the pocket for a 1-yard gain. The next time it came up, he hit Malcolm in rhythm, and he broke a tackle and he goes and scores from 37 yards out.
"I'm not making excuses," Davis said. "But there is an example of he hung with a guy who he had expected to win on a runaway and ended up with a negative play."
On offense, McCoy said he is coming to trust players like Malcolm Williams more and more.
"When you have a guy like Quan go down, you've got guys like Malcolm and Brandon and James trying to step up and play," McCoy said. "It's their first time in a game like that on the road in a crazy environment. You've just got to build them up and keep their heads up and we did. Look how well they played in the second half."
Williams, of course, finished with four catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns, helping Texas score on its last three possessions to get back into the game.
"I'm trying to earn my coaches' and teammates' trust," Williams said.
McCoy admitted to making a critical mistake midway through the third quarter, when he allowed Tech safety Daniel Charbonnet to read him, intercept a pass and return it for a touchdown, putting the Red Raiders up, 29-13.
"I let the guy play me," McCoy said. "We had run curl-flat, curl-flat, curl-flat. And I'd hit the curl three or four times. My eyes go to him because he's the only one who can stop it, and he matched up on the out and then sunk back as I threw and stepped up underneath. You can look at every tape across the NFL and every quarterback has done that in their life.
"You just can't let the guy play you. He read my eyes, I made a mistake and paid for it. But I was able to respond, and the team was able to respond. Those things are going to happen. You have to be focused and bounce back."
NO TIME FOR HEISMAN CAMPAIGN
McCoy was asked about the Heisman race and said, "I'm not paying any attention to it."
Yes, Saturday's game is at 11 a.m., when it can be hard to rev up players and fans. But Texas knows that going in. A lot of the adversity involving Texas last week happened as the game wore on - injuries, mistakes, missed opportunities. And despite a near collapse by the offense in the first half, Texas still nearly won.
This week is about youthful energy taking filling the void for some missing veteran leadership (Orakpo, Cosby and possibly Ogbonnaya).
"When you get down so far like that you can look at all kinds of things that would have changed the game," McCoy said. "But we never hung our heads, we fought back and we're still in position to do some great things. So our focus is on Baylor."
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