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After a stellar freshman season in 2006, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy had problems taking care of the football last year.
Two games into his third season as a starter, he appears to have resolved the issue.
McCoy looks to continue his impressive start as the eighth-ranked Longhorns face their toughest non-conference test of 2008 by hosting Arkansas on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Texas -24 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Texas -24 (View College Football bet percentages).
Texas coach Mack Brown threw McCoy into the fire as a redshirt freshman in 2006, handing him the reigns to the defending national champions and asking him to fill the role vacated by star quarterback Vince Young.
McCoy responded by throwing 29 touchdowns, setting a Texas single-season record and matching the NCAA freshman record. He was only intercepted seven times.
Last season was a different story. The 6-foot-3 signal-caller passed for 3,303 yards, but threw 22 touchdowns and 18 interceptions - two fewer than the highest total in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Though he's passing to a largely inexperienced corps of receivers, McCoy seems to have put that problem behind him in 2008. In the first two games, he's completed 44 of his 58 attempts for 504 yards, seven TDs and only one pick. That interception came last Saturday, when he also had four touchdowns as Texas (2-0) cruised to a 42-13 win over Texas-El Paso.
"He is playing really well and he is showing great leadership," Brown said. "The interception was not his fault, so really, he's played without a turnover from his spot, and at the same time, he's been really competitive."
McCoy deflects most of the praise for his early success.
"Give credit to the offensive line, they've given me a ton of protection, and the receivers are catching the ball," he said. "It's just like (offensive coordinator Greg) Davis says, we're just playing the game. Just do what they tell you to do, take care of the ball. When you put Ws on the board, good things are going to happen."
McCoy hopes to make more good things happen against the Longhorns' only BCS conference opponent before they start Big 12 play Oct. 4.
Arkansas has won its first two games despite a busy offseason that included the arrival of coach Bobby Petrino and the departures of two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden and running back Felix Jones.
The Razorbacks started slowly last Saturday, but salvaged a 28-27 victory over Louisiana-Monroe after Casey Dick completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Williams with 1:22 remaining.
That was a familiar scenario for Arkansas, which has trailed at halftime of both of its games and has led for a total of 3:11 in the second halves.
"We moved the ball, but didn't get points. That was certainly something that was a concern of mine," Petrino said after last week's narrow win. "You look at the first half stats and the number of rushes and the number of carries, the yardage we had, we should've been up by 14 or 21 points and we weren't. That always comes back to haunt you."
Though he's frustrated with his team's sluggish starts, Petrino is just as pleased with the way it's been able to close out games.
"I was proud of the way our team held together," he said. "Our young guys, our freshman guys are getting better. They learned a lot the last two games. ... We played harder, we played faster and we won the game, and that's the most important thing, that we came away with the win."
Petrino's team could need more complete performances to get its next win, as Texas is the first of four straight Arkansas opponents currently ranked in the top 10.
The Razorbacks lost their last meeting with their former Southwest Conference rivals 22-20 at home on Sept. 11, 2004, falling to 21-55 all-time in the series.
The Longhorns have held each of their opponents to one touchdown in their first two games under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who spent the last two seasons with Auburn. The Razorbacks managed a season-low 193 total yards against Muschamp's Tigers defense last Oct. 13.
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