AUSTIN, Texas — Simply put, Colt McCoy has won like no other quarterback in the history of college football.
His NCAA-best 45th career victory won the Big 12 and now has No. 2 Texas playing for the national championship — even if it was a game in which he was 1 second away from college football infamy.
The senior quarterback has set Texas passing records by the dozen and for the second year in a row, he's a top contender for the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player. If he wins, he would join Texas running backs Earl Campbell (1977) and Ricky Williams (1998) as Texas' only Heisman winners.
"I've never seen a college quarterback better than Colt McCoy," said McCoy's friend and mentor, Roger Staubach, himself a Heisman winner and Hall of Fame quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys.
Texas fans never saw it coming.
Not from the skinny country kid who took over for Vince Young after the 2005 national championship season. Not from the kid who seemed to be a second-rate recruit after the Longhorns missed out on Ryan Perrilloux, the player everyone wanted and LSU got.
McCoy seemed like such a baby compared to Young, so much so that his coaches worried he'd get intimidated by the seniors in his own huddle.
But McCoy's fierce determination to beat back other contenders for the job — Jevan Snead transferred to Mississippi — made him the Longhorns' starter as a redshirt freshman and Texas kept winning.
Coach Mack Brown had figured he might be latching on to something special when he recruited McCoy out of the tiny town of Tuscola.
"He's a guy who was a winner in high school in basketball and golf and football and everything he ever touches," Brown said.
McCoy won 10 games as a freshman, then 10 more as a sophomore. When Texas went 12-1 in 2008, McCoy was runner-up for the Heisman to rival Sam Bradford of Oklahoma.
The challenge this season was for McCoy to live up to the expectations of a Heisman front-runner. It wasn't easy.
Texas kept winning, but McCoy struggled early. He got the flu and looked out of sync. The annual rivalry with Oklahoma raised more questions than it answered about the Heisman when McCoy looked bad with 127 yards passing. Even he admitted his best play of they day was a touchdown-saving tackle after he threw a fourth-quarter interception.
But in a season in which no one seemed to seize Heisman momentum, McCoy had plenty of time to generate his own.
A conversation with Staubach helped McCoy relax. Staubach told him to have fun.
"I basically started the season over after that point ... tried to be the leader out there, a guy that your teammates can trust and follow," McCoy said.
McCoy was at his best over the next five weeks as Texas plowed over Missouri, Oklahoma State, Central Florida, Baylor and Kansas.
His 470 passing yards against Central Florida just missed a school record. Two weeks later, he set the NCAA career record for victories by a starting quarterbacks in a 51-20 win over Kansas.
He passed for 396 yards and four touchdowns in front of a national television audience. Texas fans chanted "Colt For Heisman!" as he took a victory lap around his home field for the last time.
A week later, McCoy' 304 yards passing and 165 yards rushing in a wild 49-39 win over Texas A&M. A 65-yard touchdown run when he pulled away from three defenders chasing him conjured memories of Young's best plays for the Longhorns.
"If anyone has a better Heisman moment than that, I'd like to see it," Brown said.
It was a Heisman moment followed by near disaster.
Texas trailed Nebraska 12-10 in the final seconds of the Big 12 championship game. The Longhorns drove within field goal range but McCoy seemed unaware as the final seconds ticked down. Instead of calling timeout or spiking the ball, McCoy rolled to his right before lofting a lazy pass into the stands to stop the clock.
At first it looked like a blunder for the ages. The clock went all they way down to 0:00. Nebraska players stormed the field, thinking they had won and knocked McCoy and the Longhorns out of the title chase.
It wasn't until an official review put 1 second back on the clock, allowing Texas' Hunter Lawrence to kick the winning field goal. Ever confident, McCoy said in the post-game interview he knew exactly how much time was left and that everything was under control.
For McCoy, it was his 12th career second-half comeback, eighth in the fourth quarter.
He had won again. And the Longhorns march on to California to play No. 1 Alabama for the national championship.
"He always finds a way to get the job done," wide receiver Jordan Shipley said. "He always finds a way to win."