As we approach the finish line of the 2011 Texas Quarterback Derby, we discover a surprise winner: Connor Brewer, the four-star recruit from Scottsdale, Ariz. who has announced plans to sign in February.
From all indications during the Longhorns' first 10 games, Brewer will be walking into an unsettled situation next season. And, like David Ash before him, Brewer will deserve every opportunity to win the job as a true freshman because none of the incumbents in Austin have made the position their own.
That's good news for Brewer, not so good for quarterbacks currently wearing orange. Four players began fall drills seeking to lead the Longhorns. Two have cast their lots with other schools. Two remain. None have surfaced as the long-term solution.
That could change, of course, if someone makes a Case for himself over the team's final three games, starting tonight against Texas A&M.
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Case McCoy's opportunity beckons, thanks to an Aggies pass defense that ranks 118th among the nation's 120 FBS schools. Regardless of which quarterback starts at 7 p.m. in College Station -- and all signs point to McCoy -- it's clear that No. 25 Texas (6-4, 3-4 in Big 12) needs more in the passing game than it's getting from Ash, who has thrown six interceptions and no touchdown passes in five games as a starter. Of Ash's last 80 attempts, eight have been intercepted.
That has swung the quarterback pendulum back to McCoy, who posted a 2-1 mark as a starter before coaches became smitten with Ash's larger frame, stronger arm and superior running skills.
But the Longhorns have scored only one touchdown in their past 28 possessions. That drive was led by McCoy in last week's 17-13 loss to No. 11 Kansas State. It ended with a 36-yard touchdown strike to Blaine Irby, giving McCoy a 4-0 ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions in limited duty this season.
A strong Case could be made for rewarding that type of decision-making with more aerial opportunities against A&M (6-5, 4-4). Statistically, it's a near-perfect fit. McCoy is a 62 percent passer and A&M has allowed opponents to complete 62.2 percent of their attempts.
McCoy led Texas to 10 of its 13 points last week after replacing Ash, providing the Longhorns with a much-needed "burst of energy," coach Mack Brown said.
"Case gave us momentum," Brown said. "Hopefully, we can build on some of the positive things in the second half."
Texas coaches have made it clear that both quarterbacks will play against A&M. The more effective player will get most of the snaps.
"We're developing two quarterbacks for these types of situations ...to come in and play and win a game," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said. "To do that, we have to eliminate [turnovers]."
Harsin said McCoy did that against K-State while providing "a spark that we needed" along the way. Although he lacks Ash's physical skills, McCoy -- like his older brother, Colt -- has the intangibles that inspire teammates.
"Case has got a sense of confidence that whenever he comes in the game, he just has a calm state of mind," Irby said. "I think that's what you need at quarterback. Even if Case hasn't played in a lot of the games in the past [month], he's getting just as many reps in practice ...He's just like a first-teamer to us."
But the bottom line shows that no Texas quarterback has remained in a good groove for an extended period since Colt McCoy took his 45-8 career record as a starter to the NFL after the 2009 season. Case McCoy longs for a second chance to change that after being benched after the team's 55-17 loss to Oklahoma on Oct. 8.
"This isn't my first year being a backup, so I've learned," Case McCoy said. "I've been preparing ...and I know if we can keep our eye on the game, we can go to College Station and play a good game and beat a good team."
If so, McCoy has an opportunity to edge Brewer as the biggest winner in Texas' disappointing quarterback derby of 2011.
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Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760