McCoy, Ash unseat Gilbert as starting QB

Christian Corona

No. 6 is now No. 1 on the depth chart.

Two seasons after his older brother led the Longhorns to the national title game and two days after he led Texas to a come-from-behind win over BYU, Case McCoy finds himself atop the depth chart. He and David Ash were named the co-starters Monday with Garrett Gilbert listed at third string. Gilbert, who is 7-7 as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback, threw his 22nd and 23rd career interceptions against BYU before McCoy relieved him and led Texas to a 17-16 comeback victory.

“The one thing that we’ve committed to is that if something’s not working, we’re going to change it,” said head coach Mack Brown. “The combination of David and Case worked.”

It would have come as a huge shock if anyone other than Gilbert would have been named the starting quarterback a week ago but after Gilbert’s lackluster performance Saturday and McCoy’s inspired one, the decision to make a change at quarterback was an easy one.

Gilbert’s teammates and coaches talked all offseason about how his leadership skills had improved but after less than three quarters on the field, they are raving about the energy McCoy provides to a huddle that he has established clear command of.

“When Case came in, he immediately assumed a leadership role,” said freshman wide receiver Jaxon Shipley. “He just said, ‘I need y’all to trust me. I’m going to take y’all down and we’re going to score and we’re going to win this football game.”

McCoy didn’t reserve such words of inspiration exclusively for the offense. The Texas defense played a crucial role in toppling BYU, holding the Cougars to 67 yards in the second half. It’s a unit that features six upperclassmen, including four seniors, yet McCoy was not shy about approaching them.

“Case came over and said, ‘Hey, just keep doing what you’re doing. Give the offense back the ball and we’re going to give us a win,’” recalled senior linebacker Keenan Robinson. “And what he said came true.”

McCoy won’t be the only one behind center when Texas takes on UCLA. Ash and McCoy switched 17 times against BYU and may switch more this weekend when the Longhorns face the Bruins. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin should also think about expanding the package of plays reserved for Ash, which currently contains just five.

Ash is arguably the team’s most versatile player as he hurt BYU’s defense in many ways, completing two of his three passes for 35 yards, running nine times for 39 more, and registering a 23-yard reception courtesy of Shipley on the game’s final drive. He hasn’t been given the opportunity to prove it yet, but Ash can punt as well.

“He brings some things that the other two do not and that’s why we didn’t think he could redshirt,” Brown said. “We needed him to grow and we needed to figure out any way to move the ball efficiently.”

Now that McCoy will take the majority of the snaps for Texas, there are two inevitable comparisons to make. The first is the one between McCoy and Shipley and their older brothers, Colt and Jordan. With Texas trailing 16-10 in the fourth quarter, Shipley had just one catch, a five-yarder in the first quarter. But when the Longhorns needed them the most, McCoy and Shipley came through, connecting for completions of 14 and 20 yards on the fourth-quarter drive that was capped off by the go-ahead touchdown. They have a long way to go if they want to catch up to their older brothers, who hooked up over 200 yards while on the 40 Acres.

The second comparison is between Case and Colt themselves. After all, the last time Texas came back from a deficit of at least 13 points was in 2007, when the elder McCoy accounted for 409 yards en route to bringing the Longhorns out of a 21-0 hole as they beat Oklahoma State, 38-35.

“He’s been here,” Case McCoy said. “He redshirted and started here as the backup his first year here. He knows how it goes. He was in the same scenario with the Browns.”

Not many college football teams could plug their backup quarterback while losing 13-0 and pull out a win. But McCoy made plays when it mattered most and has clearly won the respect of the locker room, which is why he got the starting quarterback job.

Printed on September 13th, 2011 as: McCoy unseats Gilbert, will start vs. UCLA