AUSTIN -- Texas quarterback David Ash has yet to step inside the Cotton Bowl for a Red River Rivalry matchup. But he's heard plenty of stories about the energized atmosphere.
Case McCoy, Ash's partner in the Longhorns' young quarterback tandem, has witnessed the intensity of a Texas-Oklahoma game from the sideline but never has taken a snap in the contest.
The Sooners, on the other hand, run their offense through quarterback Landry Jones, a third-year starter and Heisman Trophy candidate who has taken most of OU's snaps in the teams' last two meetings in Dallas.
Series history suggests such a disparity of experience at the game's most pivotal position favors No. 3 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) over No. 11 Texas (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday.
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That doesn't faze the Longhorns, who believe the McCoy-Ash tandem offers enough talent and intangibles to allow Texas to go counter-flow in series history and pull out the win with a less experienced quarterback.
"Yeah, I think we can win," tight end Blaine Irby said. "There's 11 guys on the field, and I think both of our quarterbacks are going to be prepared for this game."
Asked whether the McCoy-Ash duo could handle the monumental momentum swings that typically unfold in this contest, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin said: "I don't think they can. I know they can. They have to. It's their role."
McCoy, a sophomore who is 2-0 as Texas' starting quarterback this season, has one element of series history on his side: genetics. His older brother, Colt, won as a redshirt freshman starter in 2006 and posted a 3-1 record against the Sooners.
But series history is unkind to first-year starters when they face off against experienced adversaries. Of the last 20 meetings in the Texas-Oklahoma series, there have been 11 matchups in which one team's starting quarterback has entered with more career starts in the Red River Rivalry than his counterpart on the other sideline. The quarterback with less experience has won only twice in that stretch, both while wearing OU colors: Justin Fuente, TCU's co-offensive coordinator, in 1996 and Sam Bradford in 2007.
"I'm hoping recent history is better than past history this weekend," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "There's no question it's an advantage to have Landry Jones in this game. A quarterback needs to play well in this game to win. ...But our young guys have answered every bell. They're veterans now."
McCoy and Ash, a freshman who played last season for Belton High School, have combined to take all the snaps during road victories over UCLA (49-20) and Iowa State (37-14) in the Longhorns' last two games. McCoy has a 70.3 completion percentage, with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Ash has comparable numbers (68.4 percent, two touchdowns, no interceptions). But they have combined to throw only 56 passes: 37 by McCoy, 19 by Ash.
Both will play against OU, Brown said. Either could start. Asked about the tandem approach after last week's victory over Iowa State, McCoy said: "The rotation went well. David played really good, made plays and it worked out for us. ... But we struggled with third downs (4 of 14 conversion rate). That's something we'll definitely have to work on."
Moving the ball consistently against OU, which ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense (15.3 average), looms as the biggest challenge of the season for Texas' young quarterbacks. Tailback Fozzy Whittaker said playing in the raucous atmosphere of the Cotton Bowl will be "a different animal" for both quarterbacks than anything they've experienced in college.
It is not unprecedented for a first-year quarterback to win this game for Texas. Three redshirt freshmen have done so in the past 22 years: Colt McCoy (2006), James Brown (1994) and Peter Gardere (1989). But in each of those cases, the quarterback squared off against an OU counterpart also making his first start in the Red River Rivalry.
That won't be the situation Saturday, when Jones will be making his 29th career start, including an 18-2 mark in his last 20 outings. Brown said he and co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin like Texas' tandem quarterback approach but reserve the right to abandon it, depending on circumstances.
"We feel like it takes pressure off both quarterbacks because neither one has to carry the whole thing on his shoulders," Brown said.
"If somebody has a hot hand in a game like this, you might leave him in. But if a guy struggles, you don't have to leave him in and get him beaten down. ... I think Bryan has a really good feel of who he wants in there and why. That's his deal. That's the way he feels like we have to go right now. We think both of them have their place and they're doing well."
Thus far, it's led Texas to a 4-0 record. To reach 5-0, however, would require going counter-flow in series history.
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