AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas coach Mack Brown says he didn't pull quarterback Garrett Gilbert during his five interception game against Kansas State because he didn't want to send a message that he was giving up an already wretched season.
Gilbert's first two interceptions led to 10 points by Kansas State and his third killed a scoring drive near the end of the first half. His fourth on the second play of the third quarter set up a touchdown that put the Wildcats ahead 31-0.
His fifth came on Texas' next possession and Texas (4-5, 2-4 Big 12) soon after had its fifth loss in six games.
Gilbert's backup, freshman Case McCoy, the younger brother of former Longhorn Colt McCoy, hasn't played since the first game of the season, a win over Rice.
Pulling Gilbert early against Kansas State would have devastated a quarterback with a lot of potential, Brown said Monday. And later in the game, Brown wanted Gilbert to finish a scoring drive in the 39-14 loss.
"We thought about taking Garrett out, and if you do, you've crushed him and you're sending a message that we're giving up, which is a bad message to a potentially great young quarterback," Brown said.
Gilbert's bad game was a big step backward a week after he played well in a 30-22 loss to Baylor. Against Kansas State, he tried to force several throws into tight coverage.
"I didn't give my team a very good chance to win," Gilbert said. "You just can't do that."
Gilbert has thrown just seven touchdowns against 14 interceptions and his spotty play has made him the target of frustrated Texas fans who watched Colt McCoy win 45 games from 2006-2009.
Gilbert was one of the highest-rated quarterback recruits when he signed with Texas in 2009 and was almost immediately handed the backup job as a freshman. He took over for an injured McCoy in the BCS championship game earlier this year and had five turnovers in a 37-21 loss to Alabama.
Gilbert's best game as a starter this season was a 20-13 win over Nebraska (No. 8 BCS, No. 9 AP) in which he ran for 71 yards and two touchdowns. He completed just four passes but had no turnovers against the Cornhuskers.
Turnovers have plagued Gilbert all season and they tend to come in bunches. He had three against Texas Tech and four against Iowa State. The five interceptions against Kansas State tied a school record last accomplished by Bret Stafford against Oklahoma in 1987.
Brown said Gilbert still gives Texas the best chance to win on a weekly basis.
"Garrett gives you the best chance to win out because of the experience he's had. He's shown the ability to win the game," Brown said. "Case hasn't played ... You're in a little bit of a bind that you don't want to send a message to your players that you've quit and that it's all about next year. That's not fair to your seniors and in my estimation not fair to your team. "
The Longhorns must win two of their last three games to avoid their first losing season since 1997. Their next game is Saturday night against Oklahoma State (No. 10 BCS, No. 12 AP) (8-1, 4-1), which controls its own destiny in the race for the Big 12 South.
Brown acknowledged McCoy should get more snaps in practice to help him be better prepared in case he's needed.
"We have to look at Case. He is doing better in practice," Brown said.
"In the spring you always open up every position. Garrett has a chance to be a great player. We've seen that," Brown said.
Gilbert said he feels comfortable in a Texas offense that has dramatically dropped off in scoring this season. The Longhorns are averaging 22 points. Texas had averaged at least 34 points every year since 1998.
"Obviously I feel like I can get the job done," Gilbert said when asked if he would mind if McCoy got more snaps. "I still feel confident, but that's up to the coaches to do what they think is best."