AUSTIN, Texas -- Then there were two.
Neither was easy to come by, either. But Texas, after once again oozing out of the starting blocks, shuffled its quarterbacks, changed its fortunes and came up with the 17-16 win over BYU, in front of 100,995 on Saturday night at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
"We needed to provide a spark," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said.
So both McCoy and Ash played from the second quarter on.
Gilbert had already gone down in flames. The starter, who was anointed after a nine-month process, threw two interceptions in the first half. He has now thrown 23 in 15 games. Now, there might just be one less quarterback in the competition. Maybe.
"We will analyze the game and everybody's [performance]," Harsin said of the decision-making process for next week's game against UCLA. "With all those guys that is the one thing: It is never as good as you think and never as bad as you think.
"We will see what the film says and what practice says this next week."
Gilbert's miscues forced Harsin to commit to playing three-card Monte with his two remaining quarterbacks. Shuffle this one, slide that one, slip the other. Ash and McCoy delivered at almost every turn, particularly when it came to leadership.
"Calm down. We have all been playing this game since the seventh grade,'' McCoy said, describing what he told the players in the huddle. "Whoever is driving the wheel now, it is not going to be bad."
McCoy took a few good spins on that wheel. He was 7-of-8 for 57 yards. He also engineered the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter with two tight passes to Jaxon Shipley.
"The window was pretty tight," McCoy said about those throws.
So is the bond. Just like their dads and brothers, Shipley and McCoy are roommates.
The guy sharing the quarterback duties with McCoy was Ash. The freshman was only supposed to have five or so plays in his package. Texas went beyond that in his first series.
"I just tried to raise the level of play with my teammates and help them," Ash said.
He finished with 36 rushing yards and 35 yards passing.
"It was really by play,'' Harsin said of quarterback rotation. "It was by down and distance. It was by field position. I just told them both to be on the sideline and be on point. We are going to rotate."
And it didn't hurt that both of them could hand the ball to Malcolm Brown. After playing only the second half against Rice and rushing for a game-high 86 yards, he again led all rushers against BYU. Brown played the entire game against the Cougars, and led the Longhorns in rushing, finishing with 14 carries for 68 yards.
"Our coaches did a great job with sticking with what we wanted to do," Mack Brown said of the run game.
Of course, now that the game is settled, the questions about who Texas will be sticking with under center will start.
Mack Brown declined to give an answer. There might not be a solid answer at this point in the season, and the tag-you're-it offense might be what Texas is saddled with for the next couple of weeks.
"It can work," Harsin said.
Ash clearly provides a dynamic with his feet and ball handling that McCoy does not.
But McCoy is clearly the top choice. When the game was on the line, he was under center.
"He was telling us to trust him and he is gong to lead us down and bring us to victory," Shipley said of McCoy. "There was a lot of energy."
Positive energy. And that is something Texas has needed.
"We're not a great football team but we're 2-0," Mack Brown said. "Every game is going to be 17-16 and 20-17, which is what I thought we would have last year but we didn't. We didn't panic tonight when we got down by 13 and we stuck through it."
Now they are stuck with some questions at quarterback once again.
Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.
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