AUSTIN, Texas -- Before the season began, Texas' coaches warned they would use two quarterbacks.
Now, with the season nearly over, they have done just that.
The move is not likely to be permanent. Ash, who has started nine consecutive games for Texas, should start a 10th at Texas Tech on Saturday. But whether or not he is the one who finishes has now been brought into question.
Without question, putting McCoy into the Kansas game with 9:37 left was the right move for Texas. Texas coach Mack Brown did not protest one iota when co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin broached the subject over the headsets. As Harsin said, Texas had to start moving the ball and scoring points. That's what McCoy has done best. Two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter against KU. Two touchdown drives -- albeit in garbage time -- against Oklahoma in the fourth. A come-from-behind win at Texas A&M last season.
McCoy, with his voice that twangs like a banjo and style which is definitely of its own beat, has shown that he is more than capable of being just the mop top in mop-up.
Here's the thing though, until the KU game, Texas hasn't needed him to be more. Neither quarterback would have survived, much less thrived, against OU. Maybe McCoy pulls out a fourth-quarter win against West Virginia. But that was more an issue with the play calls than the guy running them. And Ash did have a fourth-quarter come-from-behind win of his own against Oklahoma State.
But what the coaching staff has done by pulling Ash and inserting McCoy is prove to everybody that they are willing to do it and are more apt to do it again. After all, it is always easier the second time.
That, in turn, has set up a scenario in which fans, players and coaches see there is an alternative over on the sidelines with the headsets on. And that's the case for the second consecutive season. So if Ash struggles -- and he will because every quarterback does -- the calls for McCoy will become louder among the fans and in the heads of the coaches.
It's not exactly an ideal scenario for any involved. Necessary, maybe, but not ideal.
After seven games -- again omitting the OU game -- Texas appeared to be Ash's team not just for the rest of his sophomore season but 2013 and '14 as well. His turnaround had been dramatic and his numbers staggering. Ash had been at the helm of an offense that was averaging 44 points per game. He was one of the nation's leaders in passing efficiency. His penchant for turnovers had gone poof. And, most assuredly, his confidence was soaring.
Now to hear Ash tell it, his confidence never wavers. In that sense, he's like the boxer who waves off the ref just after a standing eight count and just before he goes down again. Ash is always confident he can get the job done, however delusional that might appear to those around him. Undoubtedly Ash has been staggered by what happened at Kansas -- 8 of 16, two interceptions, having to watch from the sidelines as the guy he battled for most of last year, all of spring and summer and two weeks into the fall take his spot and his team to the win.
Even if his performance coupled with McCoy's somehow hasn't dented Ash's confidence, there were other people and teammates who watched the same thing. Everybody saw that McCoy did what Ash couldn't.
Now there is no dispute Ash throws the better ball. Shoot, McCoy even said his first pass on the final drive against KU should have been picked. He was lucky by his own admission.
But luck like that almost plays into the McCoy mystique. Again, somehow he gets the job done.
It's not a position any team or quarterback wants to be in. It's a situation in which all involved -- Ash, McCoy, Harsin and Brown -- will gloss over as manageable and not uncommon in college football. Remember as they do, they have an agenda and need to keep constant in their message.
But, the reality is, because of what happened at Kansas, McCoy is now a viable alternative. And he will continue to be just that for the rest of 2012 and now all of 2013 as well.