AUSTIN, TX -- It was ugly, ragged and a bit embarrassing. In the end, it was a win and the Texas Longhorns got to go to bed without the same sick feeling that must have hit the Michigan Wolverines.
Colt McCoy threw two first-quarter touchdown passes and the No. 4 Longhorns survived a sloppy 21-13 season-opening victory over Arkansas State on Saturday night, narrowly avoiding yet another huge upset on the day.
"It's not pretty and it's not the best," McCoy said. "But we're 1-0 and moving on."
Texas, which hopes to contend for the Big 12 and national titles, was an overwhelming favorite over the Indians, but found itself fighting to hold on in the final minute.
It was scary enough that the Longhorns were thankful not to be lumped into same category of shocking upset victim with No. 5 Michigan, which lost 34-32 at home to Appalachian State earlier in the day.
"That very well could have happened to us today," McCoy said.
Unlike Appalachian State, Arkansas State plays in Division I's top tier -- but the Indians reside right near the bottom of that tier in the Sun Belt Conference.
"Things that happened during the day, I was trying to tell guys to keep their head up and be positive," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "I told them not to let it scare them. Everybody's pretty good if you let them stay in the game."
Texas didn't have this one wrapped up until Brandon Foster recovered an onside kick with less than a minute to play, and that came after the Indians (0-1) were forced to re-kick because of a penalty that negated an onsider they recovered.
Texas' troubles were plenty, starting with a retooled defense that allowed Arkansas State to grind out long drives and break off big plays. With three new starters in the secondary and co-coordinator Duane Akina calling the plays this season, the defense often looked lost as Arkansas State mixed the run and pass.
And the short-yardage running game that all but disappeared last season? Still missing. Texas couldn't punch the ball into the end zone on four running plays from the Arkansas State 3 in third quarter.
"This was a major wake-up call," said senior defensive tackle Derek Lokey, who also plays fullback in short-yardage situations. "It's a good opportunity to look at where we really are."
Arkansas State never led yet had its chances to pull off the upset. If not for two missed field goals and an interception in the end zone, the Indians could have done the unthinkable and won it.
"I'd love to play Texas again," said Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard, who passed for 259 yards. "Well, maybe tomorrow night. Let me rest a little bit."
About the only thing that looked solid for Texas was the normally reliable pass-catch combination of McCoy to Limas Sweed. But even they cooled off after a 35-yard TD pass on Texas' first drive.
"We probably weren't as focused as we should have been. They came here and expected to win and damn near had the chance," McCoy said.
Josh Arauco kicked field goals of 45 and 28 yards for Arkansas State. Reggie Arnold's 2-yard touchdown run with 1 minute left cut the Texas lead to eight.
After an improper formation penalty wiped out Arkansas State's first onside kick, Foster scooped up the next one and the Longhorns avoided Brown's second home-opening loss in 10 seasons at Texas.
McCoy finished with 223 yards passing and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions and had three more passes dropped by Indians defenders.
Arkansas State, outgained Texas 397 yards to 340 and drove inside the 20 four times without scoring.
McCoy played perhaps his most inconsistent game. After hitting his first eight passes, he started misfiring with the interceptions and never looked sharp.
"It wasn't good. I just didn't handle myself that well," McCoy said.
The Longhorns finally appeared to put it away when Jamaal Charles, who managed to grind out 112 yards on 27 carries, scored from the 10 midway through the third for a 21-3 lead.
Arkansas State then drove to the Texas 17 before Leonard dropped the snap on fourth-and-1, killing yet another Indians drive inside the Longhorns 20.
With old Southwest Conference rival No. 22 TCU coming in next week, Texas has its hand full working out what they hope are just a few kinks and not more serious problems.
"We have to get to work now," Brown said. "We can get back down to earth."