Running Game With McCoy Is Just Fine

Texas beat the Arkansas Razorbacks 52-10 on the arm and, perhaps more importantly, the legs of quarterback Colt McCoy. Inside Texas magazine editor Mike Blackwell writes on McCoy’s stellar Saturday and what it means for the supposedly beleaguered Texas running game.
For six long days in the week leading to Saturday’s game against Arkansas, radio talk shows in Austin were white-hot with callers telling tales of woe pertaining to the Texas running game.

Specifically, there were two gripes: one, quarterback Colt McCoy was running too much, he’s not a running quarterback and if he gets hurt, the Horns are toast. Two, the Longhorns don’t have a number one, bellwether, bad-to-the-bone running back who can take it to the house on any snap.

Bits of that argument are true: certainly if McCoy gets hurt any time soon, the Longhorns could still lose four of five games this season. But it’s past time to get rid of the notion that McCoy is running too much, and that he’s not a running quarterback. I’m sold – he needs to run for his offense to click completely, and he is absolutely, positively a running quarterback. If you don’t believe me, ask the secondaries of Rice and Arkansas.

McCoy ran Arkansas out of the stadium Saturday – he ran for 80 yards in the first half against the Hogs (on only seven carries), and scored two rushing touchdowns in a 21-point second period. His 35-yard dash was especially impressive, and he followed that with a five-yard touchdown run at the end of the second quarter, staking the Longhorns to a 31-3 halftime lead. His threat as a runner is one of the reasons — perhaps the main reason — which he has completed over 80 percent of his passes this season.

McCoy’s totals at the end of the game: nine rushes, 84 yards and two touchdowns.

Oh, and just for grins, he completed 17 of 19 attempts for 185 yards and three more touchdowns versus the Hogs.

Not bad for a running quarterback.

And something else, pertaining to the running game that people seem to be overlooking: if your quarterback rushes for 35 yards on a touchdown jaunt, that’s yardage a running back can’t get, because the QB got it himself.

There is a finite amount of snaps in each game and you don’t have to be Vince Lombardi — or even John Mackovic — to realize you give the ball on the majority of those snaps to your best player. That’s McCoy.

And if you’re quarterback completes 17 of 19 passes — every game — then why in the world would you want your quarterback to give the ball to someone else? And finally, ultimately, there is this: if you are scoring 40-50 points a game, why should your fans worry about a running game? I know…because “We’re Texas.”

Yes, I know Texas’ schedule has been weak, but worrying about the running game when you’re winning big is like worrying about your daughter being pregnant before she’s born. Everything is OK…for now. Try to enjoy the moment.

But just to make you’ll feel better, let’s talk about the running backs. Here’s the deal: Texas needs to just give the ball to big Cody Johnson and occasionally sprinkle a carry or two here and there to Vondrell McGee and Chris Ogbonnaya until Fozzy Whitaker gets healthy. Yes, caller, you are right, the Longhorns don’t have a 25-carry back on their team. That’s because they don’t need one of those and to further puncture your argument, the Longhorns couldn’t beat Oklahoma by giving it to a running back 25 times. None of the Oklahoma backs carry the ball 25 times a game and their running game is just fine.

And I liked seeing Roy Miller line up in the short-yardage package as a fullback. At 290 pounds, you’ll have to work to fight through his block on 4th-and-1, and if you do get through Miller, you’ll likely not have enough energy left to stick it to Johnson, the 260-pounder with the rock in his hands. When Whitaker is healthy, then it should become the Cody and Fozzy Show, but only for about a third of the snaps.

Johnson can carry the load if needed as a primary runner, but here’s the deal: if the Longhorns must rely on Johnson to carry the ball 25 times a game, that is not a good thing. The “primary” runner at Texas this year needs to carry the ball only about 10-15 times per game while McCoy throws darts. The Longhorns don’t have a big-play running back until Whitaker gets healthy, and it doesn’t matter. Running backs – on this team, in 2008 – are the second option. McCoy is the first.

Accept this as truth: Texas is a passing team. Write it 500 times on your Burnt Orange chalk board: Texas is a passing team. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll lose the urge to call your favorite know-it-all radio guy and the more you’ll enjoy this season.