One of the biggest reasons Mack Brown’s 16-year tenure at Texas came to an end was one of the biggest reasons why his Longhorns couldn’t send him off with a win.
Thanks to guys like Major Applewhite, Chris Simms, Vince Young and Colt McCoy, Mack Brown won more games than any other coach in the country during his first 12 seasons on the job. But, because he missed out on guys like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, he struggled in his final four years at Texas.
Instead, it was Case McCoy under center for the Longhorns (8-5) during their 30-7 loss to Oregon (11-2) in the Alamo Bowl on Monday night. McCoy may have saved his worst game at Texas for last, completing just 8 of 17 passes for 48 yards and throwing two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns.
It was his second straight dreadful performance, the last coming in a 30-10 loss to Baylor. McCoy had his moments — against Oklahoma this year, in a win over Kansas last year and a victory over Texas A&M in 2011 — but with a Big 12 title on the line in Waco, McCoy threw for just 54 yards and was also picked off twice.
“We just got in a couple third-and-longs, dropped a couple third-down conversions. They played a couple right coverages on third downs,” McCoy said. “That was basically what happened in the passing game.”
McCoy’s counterpart, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, was brilliant. He carved up the Longhorns’ defense, going 18-for-26 for 253 yards and a touchdown while running for another 133 yards, an Alamo Bowl record for a quarterback.
“I thought that quarterback looked like one I saw play for us a while back,” Brown said, referring to Young, whose record-breaking effort against USC nearly eight years ago gave Brown his only national title.
Unable to find another productive, consistently healthy player under center, Brown went 30-21 over his last four years with the Longhorns. Garrett Gilbert was the blue-chipper that was supposed to pick up where Colt McCoy left off but he never panned out, transferring to SMU after two-plus years at Texas.
David Ash showed plenty of promise when he led Texas to a thrilling comeback victory over Oregon State in last year’s Alamo Bowl. But after suffering multiple head injuries this year, there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever take another snap in a Longhorns uniform.
If not Ash, then who is the quarterback of the future? Tyrone Swoopes? He got three series in the defeat, going three-and-out on the first two and leading the Longhorns into the red zone on the third but ending the drive with a turnover on downs. He ran for 38 yards but connected on just 1 of 6 passes.
“It was a great opportunity for me to get my feet wet and get a good start into next spring,” Swoopes said. “Of course I had those times where I was shaking my head because of things I should’ve known what to do with what we did in practice. I think that’ll get worked out going into next year.”
Is it Jerrod Heard, the two-time 4A state champ from Denton Guyer who arrives next summer? Malcolm Brown ran for 130 yards — 113 in the first half — but the Longhorns had no chance against Oregon without a decent performance from its signal caller. They didn’t get it.
Whoever takes over for Brown will inherit a team that, assuming juniors Cedric Reed and Quandre Diggs don’t declare for the NFL Draft, will return 14 of its starters from Monday’s loss.
“I think we have as much potential as we did this year, maybe even more coming back [in 2014],” Swoopes said. “I think we have a chance to do big things next year.”
As has been the case for all of Brown’s 16 years at Texas, the talent has been there but the production hasn’t, especially at quarterback.