Everyone wants to know what's wrong with Colt McCoy?
When you complete 76.7 percent of your passes, help your team convert 48 percent of third-and-7s or longer (and 55 percent of third-downs overall), help your team to a 12-1 record, win the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, finish second in the Heisman Trophy race and return for your senior year - the expectations can grow unreasonable.
Fair or not, McCoy established a standard in 2008 that wasn't likely to be matched in 2009.
Through three games this season, McCoy is completing 68.2 percent of his passes (just 61.7 percent in the first and second quarters) and already has four interceptions. Last year, McCoy didn't throw his fourth pick until Game 8 against Oklahoma State.
McCoy is on pace to throw 16 interceptions after throwing just eight all of last season.
TEXAS IS 3-0
But Texas is 3-0 with games coming up against two bad teams (UTEP and Colorado have a combined 2-4 record) and a bye sandwiched between. In other words, Texas has three and a half weeks (almost the length of fall camp) to sharpen things up.
Greg Davis was asked the best thing McCoy is doing right now, and Davis said, "Winning."
Only McCoy knows what's really going on with his first-half performances this year, which have included three of his four interceptions and just two of his six TD passes.
McCoy said he had the flu last week leading up to Texas Tech. He has several new faces on offense he's trying to break in. Davis is also trying to get a feel for what this offense does well and who can be trusted in play calling.
But McCoy's incredible second-half performances (78.6 percent completion rate, four TD passes and only one interception) indicate it might just be a mental block in the first half.
"If we played perfect the last three games, there wouldn't really be that much to play for," McCoy said. "When we sit down and watch the film, we see all these things we can do better. That's what we have to keep thinking and understand we're 3-0 and have played three great halves of football.
"Let's just continue to get better. That's what makes it fun. I don't know why we're not playing as consistent as we want to. I don't know why we're not doing as well as maybe we feel like we should be doing. But that's what we play for - we've got so many games to work to get better. If we were playing perfect right now, what would there be to play for? That's how we see it."
Mack Brown was so determined to have a better start against Texas Tech he had race car motifs all over the practice field last week.
"That worked really well for us," Mack said. "We sputtered again."
"We think Colt is doing well," added Brown, who had a heart-to-heart with McCoy last week and told him to relax and enjoy his senior year. "He's just not starting as well. Or the team is not starting as well. If this was the best we can play, we'd be in trouble. But it's not. There's a lot of things we can improve on."
Mack half-joked that the media would remind the team of its slow starts this week so that he wouldn't have to.
"So keep asking them," Brown said.
Mack acknowledged all the new playmakers McCoy and Davis are trying to find roles for in the offense. Players like Dan Buckner, John Chiles, James Kirkendoll, Tre' Newton , Malcolm Williams and D.J. Monroe.
"We've got a lot of weapons," Mack said. "We've got to figure out how best to use them and be more consistent."
STILL DEVELOPING CHEMISTRY
Greg Davis played quarterback at McNeese State and knows how difficult it can be to develop chemistry with new faces. Davis jokingly deadpanned that he DID NOT know what it was like to do that on a team with such high expectations.
"I think there are some chemistry things that are still being worked out," Davis said. "Obviously, Colt is comfortable with Jordan Shipley. And he's developed chemistry with Dan Buckner, and feels like he knows where Dan is going to be.
"He loves James (Kirkendoll). James was huge at Wyoming, but James is playing a little bit different position. And John (Chiles) is new.
"I think we're still trying to figure out some things that we need to do. You want to gear your offense to your talent. You want to make sure you're giving playmakers the opportunity to make plays.
"At the same time, you want to try to stay in a rhythm. And we've got some new playmakers, and they all bring a little something different.
"Part of the reason we've been a little inconsistent is because we're still kind of searching as to, 'How much of this and how much of that should we do?' And it's all fun to have and fun to work with.
"But one thing that happens is you can only practice so many of those things and get them really greased so they can handle all the things that come up in a ballgame."
LOTS OF OPTIONS
Davis said he's still trying to determine what to feature in this year's offense.
"It's fun to run a flip back to Colt on a reverse for a pass downfield, when Colt is lined up as a receiver to start the play (in the Wild Horn formation)," Davis said.
"They're real fun when they work. And it's also fun for the kids to work on. Practice is a grind sometimes. So those things are an important part, and we want to keep doing them.
"But at the same time we want to be smart with how much practice time we dedicate to it - whether it's the empty package (five wides, no backs), Wild Horn package or the gadgets, we have to try to determine earlier in the week, which ones really have a shot to hit."
GETTING COLT COMFORTABLE
Davis took the blame for not getting McCoy and the offense into plays McCoy is most comfortable with to start the Texas Tech game.
"I think I did a poor job of getting Colt started well in the first half," Davis said. "I know what Colt's going through. I see him every day. We have hours of conversation, and I know what he's facing in his mind. So I thought I did a poor job of helping him get started.
"So we wanted to come out and throw a little, short flare pass to start the second half. He's been really comfortable in empty, and we came out and hit John Chiles for a first down on the first third down of the second half in empty."
STATE OF DENIAL?
All of that is well and good, but McCoy still sounds at times like he's in a bit of denial. When asked if he has been overthrowing some passes early, McCoy said:
"No. I don't feel that. We had two tipped balls for interceptions (against Texas Tech). I felt like in normal games, those get caught. I overthrew that one to John (Chiles) and the one over the middle and, yeah, I was feeling it. But I feel like I'm throwing it just as well as I ever have."
Asked if he thought he was hurting his Heisman Trophy chances so far this season, McCoy said, "We're 3-0 and that's the only thing I think about. You can't control the things that happen in a game. But you can control how you finish, and I think we've done that well.
I know nobody else is playing that good."
McCoy sounded like he wanted to come out with a quicker tempo on Saturday against UTEP. Both Mack Brown and Greg Davis said they felt the offense was moving too slowly in the first half against Texas Tech, and went to the team's "jet tempo" nine times - all in the second half - to create a sense of urgency.
When asked to grade his first-half performances, McCoy said, "Pretty poor. But it's OK. We're coming back and finishing strong. And there's never a doubt in anyone's mind that we're going to get into a rhythm and start playing well. We just need to be more aggressive and play at the same type of tempo in the beginning as we do when we start to get into a rhythm in the second half."
McCoy is the unquestioned leader of the offense. When he comes out and struggles early in a game, it can plant a seed of doubt in the minds of offensive players. So far in the first half, we've seen McCoy throw ill-advised interceptions and be careless with the ball (the intentional grounding play against Wyoming). But McCoy said the defense has been there to bail him out.
"Of all the stories this year, I think the defense is the most positive," McCoy said. "Our defense is playing lights out. When you hold a team like Tech to three points in the first half, you have to be playing lights out.
"I came back at halftime and said, 'Look at the defense. Look at how solid they are. Let's give them something to play for. We've got to put points on the board. We should be killing these guys.' We regrouped, came out, challenged each other and pretty much scored at will. The defense is giving us momentum and energy."
Davis said he will continue trying to help McCoy relax and enjoy his final season in college and not hold himself to an impossible standard.
"He has set the bar so high that he thinks anything less than perfection is failure, and that's not going to happen, obviously," Davis said. "Just like a cornerback has to have a short memory, I think a quarterback has to have a short memory. And it's not just a personal bar, it's a team bar that he wants to be a part of. He's been able to shake through it at halftime and come back and play with phenomenal numbers. It's just something he's fighting through right now."
If Texas wins eight more games this season, McCoy (35-7) will pass Georgia's David Greene for the all-time NCAA wins record of 42. McCoy has more fourth-quarter comebacks (7) than Vince Young (6), has more second-half comebacks (10) than Young (8) and is the most accurate passer in the history of college football. So you have to think he is going to figure a way to get off to better starts.
"The confidence is growing," McCoy said. "I'm getting more and more comfortable every week. It's a transition. It's a change. We're continuing to figure out where everyone is good at and where they should be playing and who runs consistent routes, who is consistently doing the right thing.
"When we do that, we'll find guys who can play and who can catch the ball. The confidence is growing. We've got so much room for improvement, and that's the positive out of all this. We've been finishing, and there's never been a doubt that we'll pull together and play well when we have to. But let's start playing four quarters. That's the bright side."
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