We'll start our breakdowns with a look at Colt McCoy's performance against the Cyclones.
Quarterback Well, it was a mixed bag for Colt on Saturday. On the one hand, he did a fine job distributing the ball horizontally and underneath, which was expected to some degree. As was noted in the pregame notes, Iowa State's a team that likes to keep everything in front of them, and yesterday was no exception. Given that, there's only so much clamoring for down-the-field passing that we can legitimately accept.
Still, there were three critical mistakes that Colt made on Saturday that we have to find worrisome. Let's take them one by one.
First, after Iowa State had answered with their first touchdown of the game to cut the Longhorn lead to 16-7, Texas started on their own 26 yard line and Greg Davis inexplicably called pass plays on five out of six plays, leaving Texas with a 3rd and 9 situation on their own 42. The next play was a disaster, as Colt attempted to complete an out to Billy Pittman on the right sideline, badly underthrew it, and watched Chris Singleton intercept the pass. Fans that have worried about Colt's arm strength were probably shaking their heads in disgust at the throw - it was a bad one. I've seen Colt step in and throw the ball with authority, but at this point he's arming the ball on too many throws. He's pretty accurate doing it, but the balls aren't arriving quickly. This weakness has been masked a bit by Texas' severely outmatched opponents, but as we move into conference play, those throws will be intercepted with greater frequency. This was one of them.
The second big mistake from McCoy came on a play when he tried to do too much inside the Iowa State 10 yard line. After Texas had marched down the field on excellent rushing from Charles and Melton, Texas faced a 4th down and 2 from the 9 yard line. McCoy kept the football on an option play and, trying to get all the way into the end zone, was popped, losing the football. It was a mental mistake because he'd already gained a first down, and while not the worst mistake in the world, it's an avoidable one that he's got to learn from.
The last mistake actually resulted in a Texas touchdown, but that was only because Jermichael Finley made a tremendous catch in the end zone, ripping the ball from two defenders. McCoy just made the wrong read, appearing to have his tight end in mind the entire time, then throwing it despite double coverage. These are the kinds of mistakes that you expect from a freshman, but Colt and Texas are aiming to be a BCS caliber team; these mistakes won't be easily overcome against, say, Nebraska in Lincoln. Or Texas Tech in Lubbock. Or the Sooners in Dallas.
So what did we learn from McCoy this Saturday? Well, it wasn't a bad performance, but it was a performance that won't "win" games if the defense is struggling at all. Once more, he showed absolutely no willingness to keep the ball on the zone-read option, a mistake that's hurting the running game routinely. Greg Davis once again didn't let the youngster go vertical, but as noted previously, part of that was because of what Iowa State was giving us. McCoy did a pretty good job of taking what the Cyclones were giving underneath, but he still made two terrible throws that the team was fortunate to overcome.
I'm not in the camp of folks that think McCoy can't be the guy to lead this team to a great season. I think he's learning, and I've been impressed with what he's done for the most part. There remains lots to be worked on, though, and I'd expect him to have a busy week in the film room studying his performance. The Sooners loom large in just two weeks, and one wonders how much Colt can really learn against a team like Sam Houston State next week. For this week, we're pleased enough that we got the win, but with lots of room to improve, hand Colt a B-.