After winning out a close competition with Jevan Snead, McCoy became the 2006 starting quarterback for the University of Texas. The season opener saw McCoy lead the Longhorns to a 56–7 victory over North Texas, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing a yard for another, while throwing no interceptions. He was 12-19 in passing, and ran for 27 yards to help set up a touchdown. In only his second pass as a college quarterback McCoy threw a 60 yard touchdown pass. He was the first Texas freshman quarterback to start and win a season-opening game since Bobby Layne in 1944. The next week, the Longhorns faced #1 Ohio State at home. McCoy went 19-32, 156 yards, one TD, and one INT while rushing four times for a total of eight yards. Ohio State defeated the Longhorns 24–7, ending the Longhorns 21-game winning streak.
Following wins over Rice, Iowa State, and Sam Houston State, McCoy got his first win over a ranked team, as well as his first come-from-behind victory, when he led the Longhorns over rival Oklahoma 28–10 in the Red River Shootout. McCoy threw for two touchdowns in the game. The two touchdowns by McCoy gave him 12 touchdown passes for the season, tied for third with Longhorn passer James Brown in the list of most touchdowns by a Texas freshman.
On October 14, 2006 McCoy threw a Texas record six touchdown passes in the win against Baylor. The previous record of five touchdown passes had been held by James Brown (set vs. Baylor in 1994) and Chris Simms (vs. Oklahoma State in 2001). On October 25, 2006, he was 9th in the nation with a quarterback rating of 165.4.
In the 2006 Oklahoma State game McCoy threw for his 27th passing touchdown of the season, giving him sole possession of the single-season Texas record and putting him two TD's shy of the NCAA single season record for freshman quarterbacks (29). Coincidentally, this 27th pass was also for 27 yards.
During the November 11, 2006, game against Kansas State, McCoy suffered a stinger shoulder injury while rushing for a touchdown on the opening drive against Kansas State. Snead came in and played the remainder of the game. The Longhorns fell behind by as much as 21 points before Snead brought them back to within 3, finally falling in an upset by the Wildcats 45–42. There was speculation that Snead might be the starter for the final regular season game, because it was unknown whether McCoy would return for the Longhorns season closer against rival Texas A&M on November 24, 2006. However, McCoy was cleared to play the game against the Aggies.
With 20 seconds remaining in the Lone Star Showdown versus the Aggies, McCoy was injured by a "vicious, stadium-hushing tackle" as Aggie defensive end Michael Bennett connected with his helmet against McCoy's upper body after McCoy had thrown an incomplete pass. Replays showed both on television and in the stadium revealed the hit might have included "helmet-to-helmet" contact which is illegal in NCAA football only if done intentionally, but no flag was thrown. When the replay was shown in the stadium, the Longhorn fans erupted in boos before lapsing back into silence as McCoy lay on the ground writhing for ten minutes before being taken off the field on a cart. Mack Brown said after the game "I didn't see it, but it sounded like 88,000 (fans) thought it was dirty." Fellow Longhorn Selvin Young said he thought the hit was a clean "textbook" hit. McCoy was taken to Breckenridge Hospital where he spent more than three hours undergoing an evaluation that included an X-Ray, MRI, and a CAT scan. Longhorns trainer Kenny Boyd said the injury was a severe pinched nerve in McCoy's neck. Boyd said that McCoy was expected to make a full recovery, but no timetable was set for McCoy to return to play. The injury to McCoy came one game-clock minute after an A&M player, #91 Kellen Heard had been ejected from the game for vicious blindside block on McCoy after he threw an interception, which was ruled excessive. An X-Ray, MRI exam and CT scan showed "no structural damage to McCoy's neck or shoulder", said Dr. Carey Windler, the team's orthopedic surgeon.
On December 1, 2006, the Longhorns issued a statement confirming that back-up quarterback Jevan Snead had left the team and would transfer to an unspecified school. This meant there would be no scholarship quarterback available to play in the Longhorns' bowl game if McCoy was not ready. On December 21, 2006, Texas announced that McCoy was cleared to start in the Alamo Bowl. In the 2006 Alamo Bowl played on December 30, McCoy threw two touchdowns against Iowa to tie the NCAA freshman record of 29 touchdown passes established by Nevada's David Neill in 1998. This record has since been broken by Oklahoma's Sam Bradford in the 2007 season.
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