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December 28, 2009

Texas must win Heisman matchup

If there's one constant to Colt McCoy's collegiate career it's that it keeps coming around full circle.

For example, when the University of Alabama squares off against Texas in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, it'll be at the same place the quarterback stood on the sideline and watched the Longhorns win their last title during his redshirt season, the Rose Bowl.

This time a year ago, McCoy was capping arguably his best season at the Fiesta Bowl, where in the final 1:58 completed 7 of 10 passes for 76 yards and threw the game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass with just 16 seconds remaining against Ohio State.

Needless to say, after completing a school-record 41 of 59 attempts for 414 yards and two touchdowns (the second-highest yardage total by a Texas quarterback in a bowl game behind Major Applewhite's 473 yards in the 2001 Holiday Bowl) he was named a bowl MVP for the third time in three years.

"It is really funny that his career kind of started with Ohio State," Coach Mack Brown said afterward, referring to the 2006 regular season 24-7 loss to the Buckeyes. "I thought tonight under a tremendous amount of pressure, he played as well as any quarterback can possibly play, especially the last drive. I mean, to me that's a Heisman-type drive."

Yet here we are again, with McCoy now knowing that he'll finish his career without winning the game's highest individual honor. After finishing as the 2008 runner-up, the senior placed third when sophomore running back Mark Ingram took home the Crimson Tide's first Heisman Trophy.

One would think that the back-to-back near-misses would be huge motivation for Texas, like it appears to have been for numerous other teams this decade. Yet that doesn't appear to the be the case. Heading into the Big 12 Championship against Nebraska the Heisman was clearly McCoy's to win, but he almost threw away Texas' title chances away.

"Very few times does anybody ever get to once, he's seen the story twice," Brown said. "At the end of the Heisman (announcement), he walked up to me and said 'This is not the most important thing in my life.' That next game is going to be when it comes to sports and the national championship as a team, is a bigger team award than the Heisman."

"I was perfectly fine afterwards," McCoy said. "I think it was way more disappointing the first time to lose. This year we have so much more to play for. That's basically what I told my teammates."

McCoy also didn't walk away empty handed. He won the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards for national player of the year, the Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas awards for quarterback of the year, after only winning the O'Brien as a junior when he posted better numbers.

In 2008, McCoy completed 332 of 433 passes for 3,859 yards and 34 touchdowns, with just eight interceptions. His 173.8 passer rating ranked third nationally, while the 76.7 completion percentage set the NCAA single-season record (Daunte Culpepper, Central Florida, 73.6, 1998).

He also led the team in rushing with 561 yards on 136 carries and 11 touchdowns. His 4,420 yards of total offense set a school record (Vince Young, 4,086 yards, 2005), while his 340.0 total yards per game ranked fifth nationally.

This season he's completed 330 of 468 attempts (70.5 percentage) for 3,512 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His 147.5 rating would have ranked third in the SEC, was 19th nationally, and McCoy had a team-high 559 rushing yards.

But, Texas didn't stumble after losing on the final play to Texas Tech last year.

"He is a real cool guy, really down to earth," Ingram said after meeting McCoy on the awards circuit. "I'm glad I got to meet him. He's a great competitor on the field, but it was cool to get to know him in person."

Meanwhile, Ingram set the Alabama's school single-season rushing record with 1,542 yards, despite splitting time with freshman Trent Richardson and senior Roy Upchurch. Although his 118.62 yards per game only ranked 12th in the nation, his 1,002 total yards after contact was without peer.

"If there's a word for all styles, then that is probably what he is," Texas defensive end linebacker Sergio Kindle said. "He can do it all. Run in between the tackle, outside. Make moves, catch real well, not afraid to step up and take on blitzes. I mean, what more can you want? Doesn't turn the ball over, so, total package."

Consequently, a major difference between the two award winners was that while McCoy's passing was the clear offensive cog for Texas, with senior All-American wide receiver Jordan Shipley setting the school single-season record for receptions (106) and receiving yards (1,363), Alabama has the more balanced offense. With weapons like junior quarterback Greg McElroy and Ingram's good friend Julio Jones, a sophomore wide receiver, the Tide can play play-action all night and be more diverse.

"They've got so many All-Americans over there it's ridiculous," guard Charlie Tanner said in general.

So if Texas goes all-out to stop Ingram, that'll be fine with Alabama, which knows it has other players to pick up the slack. However, the Longhorns don't have that luxury with McCoy, who at 45-7 has the most victories in college football history after starting every game since his redshirt freshman season in 2006.

"It's funny, we've got this picture of him on the wall coming into the facility by the equipment room, and it's a picture of his first signing day here," Tanner said. "If you look at him, you don't even recognize the guy. He looks so young it's ridiculous. We joke about him. He's gone from a young guy, couldn't grow facial hair to a mustache that everybody saw. He's definitely changed. Not only physically, but he got in the weight room, he's beefed up. He was twice the size as he was when he came in here, but not only that, he's been a great leader for us and he takes charge of our offense, and says, 'Look guys, we're going to get where we wanted to be.'"


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