September 17, 2011
Texas 49, UCLA 20.
I got the distinct sense over the past week that Texas fans were consciously holding their tongues, sitting on their hands, biding their time — anything to keep expectations under control after watching the Longhorns respond to a long-awaited quarterback change last week by rallying from a 13-0 deficit to beat BYU. So much for the "patient" routine: The difference since maligned starter Garrett Gilbert was yanked against the Cougars is so stark, Mack Brown and his coaches are going to have a hard time explaining why it took so long in the first place.
The first calls for Gilbert's exit came almost exactly a year ago, after the offense sleepwalked through a 34-12 embarrassment against UCLA that sent the Longhorns into a season-long tailspin. Against the very same Bruins today, on their field, Case McCoy was a revelation of precisely the opposite variety: Excluding games against teams whose mascot is an owl, Texas gained significantly more yards (487) and scored significantly more points (49) in McCoy's first career start than it managed in any of a dozen outings under Gilbert. With two touchdowns, zero turnovers and a sky-high 218.8 pass efficiency rating in the process, he's already destined to draw premature comparisons to his older brother on the box score alone. But then he also does this:
…and reminding UT fans that he's just a sophomore with six quarters of real action under his belt seems kind of, well, counterproductive. Colt McCoy wasn't doing that as a first-time starter. I doubt Garrett Gilbert's ever even done it in his dreams. Neither of them had a bona fide workhorse to hand off to, either, which the younger McCoy apparently does in Malcolm Brown, the hyped true freshman who turned in his first 100-yard game today on 23 carries — easily the largest share of the Longhorns' 285-yard afternoon on the ground.
Along with run-oriented freshman QB David Ash, versatile freshman receiver Jaxon Shipley, sophomore receiver Mike Davis and four sophomore and redshirt freshman starters on the offensive line — hell, with a significantly younger coaching staff under Brown — the offense is still the best endorsement yet for Austin's claim to being a "green city." But it turns out they can actually play.
At least, they can play against BYU and UCLA, which may not not look like anything to get excited about by the end of the year. Frankly, hot on the heels of the Garrett Gilbert era, Texas will take it. By the end of the year, hanging big numbers on UCLA's defense may not seem like such an accomplishment. In context, though, it's hard to overstate how much it means for this team to generate a sense of progress, to have a future and to finally feel like Texas again.