Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009 | 2 p.m.
It wasn't just the lung-searing altitude that bothered Colt McCoy and No. 2 Texas in the first half of the Longhorns' first trip to War Memorial Stadium, alt. 7,200 feet.
The weight of expectations were bogging them down, too.
McCoy warmed up after a shaky start and Texas overcame spotty special teams play and a sputtering first half to beat Wyoming 41-10 on a cold and breezy Saturday.
"I think I was trying to do too much, try to make something happen that wasn't there," McCoy said of his slow start. "I fumbled once, the ball slipped out of my hands, made a stupid throw on a crossing route. I saw the (defender) and threw it right to him. It's just all mental and those things have to pass.
"The way we responded in the second half was a tribute to our team."
Texas coach Mack Brown said the Longhorns had so much fun last year because nobody expected them to have a great season. This year, everybody does and he senses his players not enjoying the game as much.
"We all expect to score every play and that's just unrealistic," Brown said.
The Longhorns (2-0) uncharacteristically committed a dozen penalties and looked ready to be lassoed until taking a 13-10 lead just before halftime when McCoy executed the one-minute offense to perfection and finally got Texas into the end zone.
After sucking wind all day, the Longhorns finally exhaled.
"I just feel like once our offense gets hot, it's going to stay hot," Longhorns defensive end Sergio Kindle said.
McCoy completed 30 of 47 passes for 337 yards and three TDs with an interception. He missed 17 or more passes for just the third time in his career, including a dozen in the first half, when he was intercepted by linebacker Weston Johnson.
"I looked at his numbers at halftime and I felt like he was pressing — and gosh, he was 17 of 29 for 166 yards passing and a touchdown," Brown said. "So, our standards are pretty high for him and he understands that. But I thought he had more fun the second half, too."
In a nice warmup for Texas Tech next week, the Longhorns' defense held the Cowboys (1-1) out of the end zone and limited them to 3-for-17 on third down in helping to secure the Longhorns' 15th straight non-conference win, tying a school record established in the 1940s.
"I thought our defense pitched a shutout," Brown said. "... But we've still got a lot to work to do and it's fun when you can win 41-10 and still feel like you've got a lot of things to fix."
Texas had a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown and also a fake punt that didn't work and led to Wyoming's other points and a fake field goal that failed.
Wyoming took a 10-6 lead with 92 seconds left before halftime when Luke Ruff blocked John Gold's punt and fellow freshman Ghaali Muhammad scooped up the bouncing ball and scampered 6 yards for the touchdown that gave the Cowboys their only lead.
This was the wake-up call for Texas, which finally quit hitting the snooze button and scored the next 35 points, starting with a 25-yard TD toss from McCoy to James Kirkendoll that capped a six-play, 70-yard drive.
They needed just five plays to score on McCoy's 9-yard keeper after D.J. Monroe returned the second-half kickoff 41 yards to the Wyoming 40. McCoy also threw long TD passes to Dan Buckner and John Chiles sandwiched around Tre' Newton's touchdown run.
Newton led the 'Horns with 62 yards and eight carries after Vondrell McGee (11 carries, 61 yards) tweaked a sore ankle.
The 'Horns managed just two field goals on their first eight possessions, and Justin Tucker failed to gain the first down on a fake punt from the Texas 9, which led to Austin McCoy's 22-yard field goal that tied it at 3.
"I am proud of this team," Wyoming first-year coach Dave Christensen said. "We talked at halftime and the end of the game that we will never accept moral victories. We either win or we get whooped, and in the second half of the game we got whooped."
The Longhorns, playing the Cowboys for the first time in 31 years and in Laramie for the first time ever, acknowledged they needed time to adjust to the altitude.
And defensive end Sam Acho said they missed their band, which was absent at a Longhorns game for the first time since the 1984 Freedom Bowl in what Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds explained was both an economic decision and a matter of space.
The UT fans got 3,800 tickets to War Memorial Stadium, which had a standing room-only crowd of 31,017, a far cry from the Longhorns' stadium where they opened the season last week in front of 101,096 fans, the largest crowd ever to watch a football game in the state of Texas.
"I'm like, 'Where is everybody?'" marveled Newton.