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Texas uses the option play at quarterback

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Garrett Gilbert has made 14 straight starts for the Longhorns, but this week he was demoted to third string. Either sophomore Case McCoy or freshman David Ash will start Saturday against UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Both played last week in relief of Gilbert and helped Texas rally to a 17-16 win over Brigham Young.

September 13, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • Texas quarterbacks David Ash, left, Garrett Gilbert, center, and Case McCoy could each see playing time against the Bruins on Saturday.
Texas quarterbacks David Ash, left, Garrett Gilbert, center, and Case… (Eric Gay / Associated Press;…)

Everything is bigger in Texas.

UCLA has two quarterbacks in its controversy. Texas has three.

The Longhorns will play either sophomore Case McCoy or freshman David Ash against UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, unless the choice is Ash or junior Garrett Gilbert. Then again, it might be Gilbert or McCoy.

To borrow and adjust the old Texas Ranger motto: One riot, three quarterbacks.

This is bedlam compared to the quarterback peace that reigned when Colt McCoy rode roughshod over the Big 12 Conference two seasons ago. The line of succession back then seemed clear. McCoy had taken the ball from Vince Young and was going to hand off to Gilbert.

Gilbert received passing grades for emergency service in the national title game two seasons ago. After Colt McCoy was injured, Gilbert scrapped to the finish against Alabama at the Rose Bowl.

On Monday, a struggling Gilbert was sacked. The Longhorns are 2-0, but after 14 consecutive starts, he was placed third on the depth chart, more or less being put out to pasture with Bevo.

Case McCoy, Colt's younger brother, shared top billing on the depth chart with Ash.

Coach Mack Brown softened the blow to Gilbert but didn't do much to clarify the situation when he said, "It'll really be fluid, and whoever practices the best this week will start."

What's most probable is that the Longhorns will come to the Rose Bowl much as they did when they played Alabama for the national title — with a McCoy as the starter and Gilbert on the bench.

"What Garrett will do is compete again … and try to get his job back," Brown said. "And while he's doing that, I'm sure he'll be pulling for the other guys. That's the type of young man he is."

What Gilbert has to say about this is unknown. All three Texas quarterbacks were sequestered this week. Others answered the questions.

"We all talked to Garrett; it's kind of a hard deal," running back Fozzy Whittaker said. "A lot people looking in from the outside don't have perspective. We are all making sure he knows we have his back."

Whittaker added, "We have to make sure each and every one of [the quarterbacks] know we have trust in them."

In some ways, Gilbert is a victim of Texas' success. The Longhorns were 69-9 from 2004-2009 with Young and McCoy. That included one national title, two national title games and a 5-1 record in bowl games.

So the fall was that much greater when Gilbert-led Texas went 5-7 last season. The last time Texas had a losing season, Texas got a new coach — Brown came in to sweep up following a 4-7 campaign in 1997.

Young and McCoy took the Longhorns to the top. Gilbert bottomed out in 2010, throwing only 10 touchdown passes and having 17 passes intercepted. UCLA pressured and harassed Gilbert during a 34-12 victory in the fourth game last season.

The Longhorns, ranked seventh going into that game, went into a free fall.

Last Saturday, Gilbert completed as many passes to Brigham Young players, two, as he did to his teammates. Texas fans were hollering "hook 'em" all right, but it wasn't a cheer.

Gilbert was replaced eight minutes into the second quarter. McCoy and Ash rallied the Longhorns for a 17-16 victory, sometimes alternating on plays.

All Brown said about the switch was, "I was just looking for a spark."

The eyes of Texas, for now, are on the new McCoy and an old combination.

Colt McCoy's old-reliable favorite target was Jordan Shipley. Case McCoy found Jordan's younger brother, Jaxon, twice for 34 yards on Texas' game-winning touchdown drive against Brigham Young.

"Case, like Colt, has an outgoing personality," Whittaker said. "But Case is different. It's hard to put my finger on it. Maybe it's because he had to grow up with Colt as his older brother."

There are some similarities.

"Case was motivating us as soon as he got in the huddle, telling us that he was going to lead us down the field and that we're going to score and we're going to win this game," Jaxon Shipley said. "And that's exactly what happened."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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