LUBBOCK — The Major Applewhite comparisons can end now, because they're no longer applicable. When he was a freshman, Applewhite had his chance to do what Colt McCoy did Saturday night, and not even the original Opie could pull it off.
The Jevan Snead-John Brantley-John Chiles countdown can stop, too, unless they're targeting 2010. Barring injury, apocalypse or the loss of Mack Brown's faculties, no hotshot recruit should even think about stealing McCoy's job as the Texas quarterback until he leaves campus.
And as for all that talk about how McCoy is just a caretaker — a guy who lets his talented teammates do the work and tries not to screw it up? After UT's 35-31 come-from-behind victory, one in which McCoy himself was the difference, that reputation should be gone for good.
Without McCoy's perfect throw to Limas Sweed on a 45-yard second-quarter touchdown, UT would have lost to Texas Tech. Without his Vince Young-like escape of a third-down sack, which he turned into a 12-yard gain in the third quarter, the Longhorns' national title hopes would be over. Without McCoy's jaw-dropping 33-yard late scramble, Tech might very well have come back.
Count Roy Williams, the former UT receiver who once lost a game like this in Lubbock, as one of the many McCoy won over. Williams — who played with Applewhite and Chris Simms and Young — watched McCoy's heroics from the Jones AT&T Stadium sidelines, and he said he couldn't imagine any of his old passers doing any better.
"And you know what the scary thing is?" Williams said. "He's not even good yet."
That's the thing about McCoy, who busted his lip early and then made matters worse by throwing an interception that Tech returned for a 21-0 lead. If he can shrug off potential calamities like that only nine games into his college career, imagine what he'll be able to do when he has a year or two under his belt.
It never was supposed to be this way. McCoy, the small-town milk-lover, was supposed to be an insurance policy, the guy who would only be needed if Young left early and another blue-chipper wasn't on hand to replace him.
But that was exactly what happened, and that's how Brown found himself putting his arm around McCoy after his near-disastrous interception. Brown said he told McCoy the only way UT would win would be if when McCoy's teammates looked him in the eye, "they think you think that we can win."
McCoy, it seems, always gives that impression. He did against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and he did in the snow in Nebraska last week. But he was never more convincing than against the Red Raiders, who he torched for 256 passing yards, 68 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
And when it came time to put the game away, on third down at midfield with less than two minutes left? The smart call would have been a handoff, but UT coaches trusted McCoy enough to let him drop back to pass. So he slipped away from a couple of linemen and rumbled for a game-clinching first down. He later said he never even thought about going the safe route and taking a sack.
After the game, Williams was still marveling about it.
"I don't know if a lot of quarterbacks could have done that," he said.
Williams could have mentioned names, but he knew better. After all, comparisons don't do McCoy justice anymore.