He’ll have to continue to make plays for Kell to make a deep postseason run.
The Longhorns (10-1) are in the second round and about to host Gainesville tonight at Cobb Energy-Corky Kell Stadium, each game McGuigan plays the rest of this year, should Kell continue to advance, will be the biggest of his career.
The Red Elephants have not won a road playoff game since 2004 and they have not won a road playoff game at an on-campus stadium of an opponent since 1986.
However, that mark will be challeged tonight by Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has more than 2,600 yards passing and 35 touchdowns. He has also run for almost 1,000 yards.
“Their quarterback is dangerous in terms of throwing and running the ball,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “We have to contain the guy in the pocket. If you cover all the receivers, which is what you need to do, he takes off running, and that’s a problem, too. So pick your poison.”
Much like the Red Elephants, Kell’s continued postseason success could come down to how well McGuigan manages the offense.
McGuigan, a junior, is in his first season as a starter for the Longhorns and has been a reliable game-manager in a run-oriented spread offense. But he can do much more than just hand the ball off.
His decision-making has gotten sharper as the season progressed and he has emerged a proficient passer with 1,486 yards with 14 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Speaking of decision-making, McGuigan saved the season last week, when the Longhorns trailed by one with 33 seconds left as he threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Julian Burris to beat Southwest DeKalb 19-14.
And the play wasn’t designed to go to Burris. McGuigan just happened to find him uncovered.
“We needed a big play,” McGuigan said. “I saw Burris in end zone, took a chance and it paid off.”
It isn’t just the game experience that’s turning McGuigan into a responsible quarterback. He’s having to work extra hard at practice to prove he’s the starter every week.
Sophomore backup quarterback Cameron Rosendahl has shown he’s just as talented as McGuigan. While Rosendahl has shown he’s the better scrambler, according to Cook, McGuigan’s got the stronger arm.
“Matt has to be pushed by Cameron to get better or Cameron gets the job, that’s the bottom line,” Cook said. “Cameron has pushed Matt to make Matt better. Matt has responded, and so has Cameron, who is still nipping at his heels. That QB battle has gone on behind the scenes all year.”
McGuigan also has the luxury of reliable receivers. Brendan Langley has 540 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Quincy Mauger and Michael Valero are often targeted and have 294 and 293 yards, respectively.
“My chemistry with my receivers has gotten so much better,” McGuigan said, “and getting used to throwing to them has improved my game.”