Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was raised on Texas Tech football, but never got to see the Longhorns take on the Red Raiders in person. The freshman’s first experience with the rivalry will give him a chance to do more than just watch.
Fifth-ranked Texas (7-1, 4-0) looks to remain in sole possession of first place in the Big 12 South Division when it visits Lubbock to take on Texas Tech (5-3, 2-2) on Saturday night.
The Longhorns remained one game up on Texas A&M and Baylor for first place with a 22-20 victory at Nebraska last week. Sophomore walk-on Ryan Bailey’s 22-yard field goal with 23 seconds left capped the winning drive that was led by McCoy, who with a 20 mph wind in his face and snow falling drove the Longhorns to the Nebraska 5 to set up the decisive kick.
“Ryan Bailey steps in and I just said, ‘Kick it like you do in practice,”’ McCoy said of Bailey, who made the kick in place of first-stringer Greg Johnson, whose leg had tightened up. “He never misses in practice.”
As exciting as that victory was for McCoy, who went 25-of-39 for 220 yards and two touchdowns, the trip to Lubbock will hold more personal significance for him.
“I did go to a few (Texas) Tech games because it was close to home and it was fun to go hang out with some friends, but I never got to see Texas Tech and Texas play,” McCoy said of growing up in Tuscola, Texas. “I watched it on TV all the time though. … Anytime Texas comes to Texas Tech its a big deal.”
McCoy, though, is focused primarily on continuing to improve and extending his team’s six-game winning streak since a 24-7 loss to top-ranked Ohio State. He’s guided Texas to a pair of big victories, 28-10 at then-No. 14 Oklahoma on Oct. 7 along with last week’s win over the Huskers.
“I do feel more comfortable after being able to get a win on the road, win at Oklahoma, and a win at home,” McCoy said. “But it’s not me, it’s my teammates. … Overall, as a team, we’re doing a lot of good things.”
One of them is shutting down the opposition’s running game. Texas is allowing 46.5 rushing yards per contest, second-fewest in the nation, and held Nebraska to 71 yards on the ground.
Texas, though, will face a challenge in defending Texas Tech’s high-powered passing game. Red Raiders quarterback Graham Harrell was 31-of-40 for 368 yards and a career-high six touchdowns in Texas Tech’s 42-26 win over Iowa State on Saturday.
“In the last two weeks, we’ve had a lot of criticism, especially myself,” said Harrell, who threw five total interceptions in losses to Missouri and Colorado the previous two weeks. “After two weeks of not looking (good), I knew I had to go out and play well, and I did.”
Texas is ranked 84th in the country against the pass, allowing 221.8 yards per contest. Not helping matters for the Longhorns defense is a rash of injuries that continued to worsen last week.
Starting defensive tackle Derek Lokey suffered a broken left leg against Nebraska, and he’s scheduled to have surgery this week. Lokey is the sixth defensive starter this season to miss at least one game for the Longhorns, and his loss may be the biggest blow yet, considering he won’t be available against pass-happy Texas Tech.
“He’s the heart and soul of the defensive line,” senior defensive end Tim Crowder said Monday. “He didn’t get a lot of credit, but he was the anchor.”
Twin brothers and safeties Michael and Marcus Griffin have struggled with leg injuries, and Longhorns starting cornerback Tarell Brown has a sore foot.
About the only healthy defensive back is cornerback Aaron Ross, the Longhorns’ best playmaker on defense. But even he showed up to meet reporters Monday with his right hand bruised and wrapped.
The banged-up Texas secondary could have a tough time preventing a big day from Harrell, who’s averaging 313.1 passing yards per game and directs the country’s No. 3 passing offense.
Texas leads the series with Texas Tech 40-14 and has won the last three meetings, including a 52-17 victory at Austin last Oct. 22. The teams combined for 912 yards of offense, including 608 through the air.