Swoopes up-and-down at spring game

AUSTIN, Texas – Play was so lackluster for the Tyrone Swoopes-led first-team offense in the first half of Texas' spring game that they tested out the cannon - normally reserved for UT touchdowns - on a first down completion. And that wasn't even the worst part.

This particular play - a fourth down completion to Jaxon Shipley – should have never happened since Swoopes received the snap a few seconds after the play clock struck zero.

But such is the way of life in a spring game, and the reality of what the Longhorns have to work with at quarterback right now.

Reinforcements are on the way in some combination of five-star Jerrod Heard, a healthy David Ash and USC transfer Max Wittek, who has yet to make a decision but appears to be favoring the Longhorns.

Today, though, was about the former highly touted recruit on the field in Swoopes and not the one enrolling at UT soon that happened to be up in the stands with roughly 100 other recruits.

After Swoopes' 2-for-9 start, including an interception to Dylan Haines on his first throw, you could sense the roughly 20,000 in the stands were about to suit Heard up themselves and throw him under center.

But the 6-foot-5, 240-pound sophomore, who completed just 5-of-13 passes for 26 yards in six games as a freshman, came into his own in the second half to at least save face as we head into the dog days of summer. He ended the day 17-of-30 for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

"He had some overthrows but, as a quarterback, you have to bounce back," Texas head coach Charlie Strong said. "You have to execute and do what we ask you to do. It's about that confidence. Once you start managing the offense and you understand that you will run the offense, you have to have a sense of urgency about it."

There was no denying that Swoopes was running the offense on Saturday, though, converted wide receiver Miles Onyegbule showed promise with a game-opening drive that he capped with a 1-yard touchdown.

Question is: Will he be running the offense when these games begin to count toward the standings?

He won't be if his first half was any indication for how he'll perform this fall.

In the first drive he was sacked on his first roll out by Hassan Ridgeway, couldn't get a snap off in time for a delay-of-game penalty, and threw an interception. This came just after a converted tight end/wide receiver led the second team offense on a 12-play, 65-yard drive for a touchdown, which he scored.

On his second drive he was sacked and went 1-for-2 for 7 yards. He was 0-for-2 on his third drive, which was a three-and-out.

Three plays were all he could muster his fourth drive too. Same for his fifth drive.

Remember, he was doing this against the second-team defense.

It wasn't until his sixth drive that Swoopes finally got things moving when he led a 15-play, 91-yard drive that was capped off by a Malcolm Brown 11-yard touchdown run.

He ended the first half with a 42-yard touchdown to Daje Johnson, but it was more of a bailout by the Texas receiver, who somehow managed to come down with the throw amidst heavy coverage.

Be that as it may, Swoopes came out with a completely new demeanor in the second half and completed 9-of-12 passes for 114 yards. And he wasn't sacked like he was four times in the first half.

"I liked the way he was able to bounce back," Strong said. "He missed some big throws there that you'd like to see him complete. But he was able to bounce back."

The most glaring of those overthrows was intended for Shipley, who had his man beat for a 23-yard touchdown. Instead, Texas settled for a Nick Rose 40-yard field goal. To that point, the first-team offense had run 18 plays for 4 yards. Four yards.

"Offensively, we have to do a better job of executing," Strong said. "Tyrone, just settle down and go manage the offense. You are a quarterback and it's all about you. Don't look for the big play. Just continue to move the chains.'

"Sometime guys put pressure on themselves stepping out there for the first time in the offense. You have a crowd that you are in front of. He just needed to settle down. I told him ‘I'm not out here asking you to just be a great player today. I just want you to go out and do what we ask.'"

Swoopes began to do that in the second half. He was unable to complete a 4th-and-5 to Shipley on the first possession of the second half that would have completed an 11-play, 58-yard drive. However, that would have resulted in a chip-shot field goal under normal circumstances.

He showed great touch on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brown on his second series of the second half, and followed that up with a 44-yard bullet to Jaxon Shipley for a touchdown, which was easily his best throw of the day.

"At the end of the day, he did what we asked of him," Strong said. "He just missed some throws. What you can't do, especially at that position, is let one bad play lead to another."

Perhaps the most important thing he did all day was further the respect he has with his teammates, who know too well the goings on of a struggling quarterback.

"He's doing a great job," senior center Dominic Espinosa said. "The good thing about him is he is a real relatable, personable guy, and I think that shows when he is in the huddle.

"He started out slow in the beginning but he was able to smile and joke around. He's able to get over an interception quickly and I think that's a good characteristic to have in a quarterback. Once we got rolling he was really encouraging us, and I liked what he was doing."

Where does Texas go from here at quarterback is anyone's guess.

Strong reiterated after the game that he didn't need a great player at quarterback, but just someone to take control.

"You're team is going to go where your quarterback goes," he said. "We have to get better there, whether it be David, Swoopes, or whomever, we have to get better."

Swoopes took control of the second half.

Now, if someone could just take control of that cannon.

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