Accuracy, luck in Texas passing game

AUSTIN, Texas -- The ball was underthrown.

Mike Davis had gone long.

Nine times out of 10, or in 2010, that is an interception.

This season?

Think again.

Case McCoy's pass went off the arms of the UCLA defensive back and into the hands of Davis for a 45-yard completion.

"It got caught this year," offensive lineman David Snow said. "I can't tell you how great it was."

McCoy's completion percentage has been pretty great so far. The sophomore has hit 76 percent of his passes. David Ash, whose time behind center has expanded each week, has hit almost 86 percent of his passes. Neither has thrown an interception. Last season Garrett Gilbert completed 59 percent of his passes and threw 17 interceptions.

"He has obviously got the intangibles, just like his brother," said Texas coach Mack Brown of Case, the younger brother of Colt McCoy.

Forget intangibles. The similarities, at least in their first starts, are downright eerie.

In his first career start in 2006, Colt was 12-of-19 for 178 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.

In his first career start in 2011, Case was 12-of-15 for 168 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, against UCLA.

And each threw a touchdown pass on his second throw of the game.

Go ahead and cue the spooky music.

"He is just a playmaker," H-back Blaine Irby said of Case. "That is just what he does."

And McCoy plays with his eyes wide open. That might be his greatest asset. Take the 45-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Grant. At first glance it appeared that McCoy was scrambling, buying time, and then just happened to spot Grant wide open.

That was not the case.

"You go back and he sees it the entire time," co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said of watching McCoy on game film. "He saw it before he had to scramble out of there. He knew where he was going with the ball. He kept his eyes in that position based on the coverage that they gave us."

To that Brown added, "A lot of quarterbacks don't see D.J. Grant when it is 3rd and 9 even though he is wide open. There have been so many times in my life where I am saying 'He is wide open. Don't you see him?' Some see him. Some don't.

"He just has a knack for finding the right guy."

Knack or not, McCoy is also in an offense that is tailored for his specific talents. The deep throw to Davis was the only time Harsin has called on McCoy to heave the ball downfield. Most of the passes called are manageable, quick routes that let McCoy use his pre-snap read and decision-making skills.

That, in turn, allows the offense to move the chains, especially on the third down, where Texas is trying to convert a first down and keep possession.

On third-down throws, McCoy and Ash are a combined 6-of-7 for 148 yards and a touchdown.

The scramble that broke UCLA at the end of the second quarter was one such third down. On another play, McCoy faced third-and-18 from the 27. He seemingly slipped every defender west of the Rockies and hit Davis for a 25-yard gain.

"It really does help when they are just hitting [those passes]," Snow said of his QBs. "But they do it in practice so it is no wonder why they do it in the games."

But the quarterbacks are asked to do more than just repetitively throw passes. This is where Harsin's skill as a teacher comes into play. Rather than focus on just McCoy or Ash when either is behind center, the coach is constantly quizzing the offensive players.

"Just walking across the sideline asking guys, 'What is the play? What do you do on this? What is your job?' and things of that nature, so that you are making sure that everybody is getting a mental rep and everyone is always prepared and ready to go in," running back Fozzy Whittaker said.

"He stresses tempo and is emphasizing the little details and going the extra mile to make sure that the play works. In the games, when those situations that come up which we worked on in practice, we are already greased up and oiled for it and we are prepared and we just have to go out and execute."

The 2-yard touchdown to Grant in the second quarter against UCLA is the perfect example. Because he had been quizzed about it by Harsin, McCoy knew what to look for and what to do when UCLA quickly moved in to crowd the line.

"I was encouraged by the decision by him and how fast he made it," Harsin said. "It makes me feel better right away that he knew pre-snap, 'I know where I am going with the ball.' The ball is out of his hands and he is not hesitating one bit."

And no one is hesitant to take the good fortune that has fallen into the team's hands this season, like, ahem, the McCoy-to-Davis interception-turned-reception.

"Things in that play … things went right for us," Snow said.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.

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