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October 4, 2006
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Three weeks have passed since Texas lost to Ohio State 24-7. In that time, Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy has passed 46 times with a remarkable 82.6 completion percentage.
Obviously, McCoy has come a long way since Sept. 9. In his second collegiate game, the redshirt freshman and son of a high school football coach appeared overmatched against the Buckeyes.
But has he come far enough?
Since the Ohio State loss we've learned that McCoy has a cool name. We've also learned that he can excel against inferior teams (Rice and Sam Houston) and respectable teams (Iowa State).
On Saturday, we'll learn what he can do against a team that rankles Texans more than a burr in the saddle when the No. 7 Longhorns square off with No. 14 Oklahoma.
The Longhorns are optimistic that McCoy will benefit from the experience of playing the No. 1 team in the nation.
"He's played Ohio State already, and I thought he played well against Ohio State," Texas senior guard Kasey Studdard said. "There's just a few things he had to learn here and there."
McCoy agreed that the Ohio State game, in particular, was a learning experience.
"I learned I don't like to lose," he said. "It was a horrible feeling. But Ohio State was a good game because it showed us what it would take for us to come together as a whole team and win."
Of course, unity is easier to attain against Rice than Oklahoma, but McCoy might have history working in his favor.
Over the years, several freshmen have emerged as stars in this bitter feud. Oklahoma's Marcus Dupree, James Allen and Adrian Peterson are examples. For Texas, Bobby Layne, Edwin Simmons, Butch Hadnot and James Brown shined in their first games against the Sooners.
If McCoy is added to the list, Texas would appear to be on its way to another Big 12 South Division championship. But the soft-spoken McCoy doesn't necessarily see it that way.
"It's not about me as a freshman quarterback," McCoy said. "We've got to win this game as a team."
He has a point. The Texas defense must find a way to contain Peterson, the nation's premier running back. Oklahoma's Paul Thompson ? who was moved to receiver last season - has emerged as an effective quarterback.
But make no mistake, a large portion of the Longhorns' success rests with McCoy. He must prove that his production since the Ohio State game is a result of his ability, not the caliber of competition.
"We have much more confidence in our passing game than we did five weeks ago," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "I credit that to our young quarterbacks and receivers.
"I've never seen a more confident and consistent freshman quarterback than Colt. He's practiced the same way every day. Last week I thought there would be some drop-off right before Oklahoma and right after Iowa State, but he had none and he was the same way on Saturday (against Sam Houston).
"He has a swagger. He has the confidence of the other kids and himself. He knows right now where to go with the ball, and he's so accurate."
But is it an accurate assessment to say McCoy can lead Texas to victories against top-level opponents?
That's another test McCoy must pass, and for the last three weeks he's been passing pretty well.
Three questions with Kentucky running back Rafael Little
Little has rushed for 574 yards and caught 19 passes for 264 yards despite missing the game against Florida with an injury. He has also averaged 20.1 yards on eight punt returns.
Kentucky is 3-2 and stayed close with Florida for three quarters. What was it like having to sit out that game?
"It was hard sitting at home and watching. I felt I could have helped the team and it might have been a different story."
Kentucky is known as a "basketball school" and hasn't had a lot of success in football. But this year the Wildcats are 3-2. How are the fans reacting?
"People at games are staying around. Usually they start leaving by the third quarter, but now they're staying. It helps us in the long run because we know they're behind us."
The Wildcats need just six victories to qualify for a bowl game. If you accomplish that what do you think it would mean to Coach (Rich) Brooks, who has been the subject of criticism?
"Coach Brooks is a good coach. He's been here since I got here, and I have trust in him and he has trust in us. We want to make a bowl game and play well enough to keep him here."
Name the six Division I football teams whose mascots do not end in 'S' and do not include a color?
Illinois Fighting Illini, Marshall Thundering Herd, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Nevada Wolf Pack, Navy Midshipmen and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (Note: The Cardinal in Stanford refers to the color, not the bird.)