With apologies to Forrest Gump, Texas QB Case McCoy’s career has also been like a box of chocolates. You never knew what you were going to get from a perennial backup, who has managed a 5-4 record but, then again, has orchestrated the program’s two biggest wins of the past four years.
The new McCoy, however, may be the real McCoy. He may also be the savior of what once appeared to be a lost season.
The essential McCoy, though, remains unchanged.
The senior continues to play with a Bevo-sized chip on his shoulder, partly because of the long shadow cast by his more illustrious older brother. Call it Little Brother Syndrome, but there hasn’t been a day when Case McCoy wasn’t convinced that he should be trotting on the field with the Ones for the opening series.
On several occasions since the 36-20 stunner against Oklahoma, McCoy has responded with an immediate and emphatic “Yes!” when asked if this was now his team. It is in contrast with David Ash’s soft-spoken and relatively hesitant response when he, otherwise, answered similarly last year. And it is certainly a departure from Garrett Gilbert’s deferential response in late-2010 when the former Longhorn said the team actually belonged to “the seniors.”
“The Backup Quarterback Syndrome is there,” said offensive coordinator Applewhite. “He certainly has a chip on his shoulder, and it doesn’t just come out in words. It comes out in his preparation and in his dedication to his teammates. I see it every day.”
McCoy will never be renowned for having a rocket arm; he’ll never be labeled dual-threat. But there is one thing he does have, and he has in buckets. Call it swag. Call it moxie. Call it cocky or call it confidence. McCoy has it because, as important, he gets it. He understands it comes with the territory. It’s part of the position, especially when you are QB-One at The University-of-By-God-Texas.
McCoy is often brash with the media, and yet he is just as self-depreciating. When asked why Texas is a two-point underdog Saturday to TCU, McCoy replied “Probably because I’m the quarterback, right?”
Probably because odds-makers and pollsters have a adopted a wait-and-see approach to the Longhorns, many of whom still attribute the current three-game winning streak to the raw emotion of a rivalry game and a narrow escape at lightly-regarded Iowa State. Or, the jury may still be out on McCoy.
There have been times when it was uncertain whether McCoy would still be in a Burnt Orange jersey. Rumors swirled that McCoy would transfer following the 2011 season, including reports from unnamed sources of an altercation with Longhorn coaches earlier that year during the OU game. He was also sent him, along with linebacker Jordan Hicks, from the 2012 Alamo Bowl for violation of curfew. But that suspension involved an investigation of sexual assault in which no charges were filed.
Many assumed that McCoy’s decision to devote 10 weeks to a Peruvian mission trip rather than participate in voluntary team workouts meant that he no longer expected any meaningful snaps. But a summer in the mission field, rather than on the practice field, affording McCoy some much needed distance and perspective on college football.
“He’s matured a whole lot through all of that,” Applewhite said. “Sometimes the bad things that happen to you can mature you. They can humble you beyond belief. He’s taken that and made it a positive. There’s definitely a peace about him, and a calm about him, right now that’s beneficial to the way he’s been playing.”
The best thing McCoy has going for him these days is that he is playing within himself. The fact that he has thrown just one interception in 126 attempts is indicative of not only his maturity but also an awareness of his limitations. In short: he is no longer forcing the issue.
“That chip on his shoulder that gave him that edge (would once) manifest in turnovers and aggressiveness,” Applewhite noted. “Now, it’s starting to slow down for him.”
Sure, there were a couple of ugly overthrows against OU that would have moved chains or scored points. Yet, McCoy was clutch on third-down while his TD tosses were, arguably, the two best throws of his career.
“Does he have John Elway’s arm? No, he doesn’t,” Applewhite conceded. "Does he have an adequate arm that can make throws? Yes, he does. He can throw the 15-yard out (route) that everybody says you have to have to be a strong-armed quarterback. He can make those throws. Is he Vince (Young)? No, he’s not. But can he run and scramble if he has to? He’s done it before. He did a decent job in the (2011) Texas A&M game.”
His 25-yard scramble in the series’ finale, of course, set up Justin Tucker’s game-winning FG on the game’s last play. That would have been enough to etch Case McCoy in Longhorn lore, but the recent upset against Oklahoma, he said, was a legacy maker.
Even when it happens late in a career with a Longhorn legend still waiting to be born.