Texas' McCoy struggles but still keeps winning

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

One of the biggest mysteries in college football this season has been the slow start of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, who was expected to challenge for the Heisman Trophy after finishing second behind Sam Bradford last season.

But with his statistics down, McCoy has tumbled down the list of challengers after the first half of the season even as the Longhorns have kept winning.

For his part, McCoy said he’s not disillusioned in how the season has transpired to this point.

“It’s not been a disappointment at all,” McCoy said. “Before the season I set the goal we would like to be 6-0 at this point of the season. And now that were there, I can’t be happier.”

But the statistics tell a different story. McCoy has completed and thrown more passes, but his passing yardage is down. His touchdown-to-interception ratio, which was at 17-to-3 last season after six games, has skidded to 11-to-7 this season. His NCAA quarterback efficiency rating is down from 189.02 at this point last season to 137.85.

“I know there’s a lot of room for improvement,” McCoy said. “I’ve got to have help and have guys step up and make plays. I can do things better. There are a lot of things we can be better at. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

It’s been a frustrating season in one sense for McCoy, who has been stricken with a rash of minor injuries and illnesses over the last few weeks.

Most recently, McCoy smashed his right thumb into the helmet of Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. The contact left him with a bruise that will likely result in him losing his nail. McCoy joked to reporters earlier this week that he couldn’t show them the injury because he needed to keep his hands in his pocket under doctor’s orders.

“It’s been frustrating more than anything else,” McCoy said. “I had the flu against Tech and then I was a little sick on Wednesday and Thursday and it nagged at me. And then I messed up my thumb in the first quarter. Those things are frustrating, but I’m a believer and a faithful guy. I think my luck will be better from here on.”

As much of an imposition as his cold was a determined Oklahoma defense that flummoxed him and repeatedly battered him in the game. McCoy was knocked to the ground 14 times in the first half alone.

And Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables’ intricate combination of blitzes didn’t allow him much as he produced 127 passing yards – his lowest single-game total since his freshman season.

“I watched every game of Oklahoma’s before we played them and half of the blitzes they threw, I had never seen,” McCoy said. “You’re going to see different things every week. But you’ve got to give those guys some credit. Half of those guys (on Oklahoma’s defense) will be playing on Sundays (in future NFL careers) and they are really good.”

Another reason for McCoy’s perception being down is that he hasn’t been as much a running threat this season. After producing 348 rushing yards and four touchdowns after six games last season, McCoy has rushed for 91 yards on 48 carries in 2009.

Texas coach Mack Brown has tried to lessen the pressure on McCoy by telling him not to be perfect.

“We’ve all gotten used to Colt over the years,” Brown said. “Some of us go cold on him just because he is so good.”

Those expectations don’t detract from how much McCoy is enjoying his current season. The Longhorns appear to have a clear path to the BCS national championship game that eluded them last season if they can win out.

“If you watch the emotion of Colt after the game, he’s so excited he’s beaten Oklahoma,” Brown said. “Then, he broke up a little bit with Lisa Salters after the game. That shows you that it’s not about him. He’s not worried about how many times he’s thrown the ball or how many times he completed it.”

Even as McCoy’s numbers are down, Brown thinks that his senior quarterback remains exactly the kind of candidate Heisman voters should be considering. His most impressive statistic may be his 38-7 career record as a starter. He will tie Peyton Manning with a victory over Missouri on Saturday with David Greene’s 42-10 mark still ahead.

Opposing teams have shown uncommon respect to McCoy after games this season. Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill waited on the field for several minutes after McCoy’s television interviews to offer his congratulations. And Auston English, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams of Oklahoma did the same after last week’s game at the Cotton Bowl.

"Colt wants to win football games -- that was the only thing that matters.” Brown said. “When people are looking at Heisman numbers, to me that’s the key. It’s not always about gaudy numbers, it’s about who wins. That kid is five away from becoming the winningest ever and that’s cool.”