College Sports

April 19, 2014

Swoopes overcomes subpar first half in Texas spring football game

The backup quarterback has a strong second half.

As sloppy as Tyrone Swoopes was in the first half, he was that crisp in the second.

The sophomore quarterback, taking first-team snaps in place of an injured David Ash, completed just 8 of 18 passes, the first of which was intercepted, for 115 yards — 42 of them on a Hail Mary pass to a leaping Daje Johnson in the final seconds of the second quarter.

He was sacked four times in the first half.

But Swoopes bounced back after halftime, connecting on 9 of 13 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in Saturday’s annual Orange-White Scrimmage.

His Texas team beat the Horns 38-14.

“We had to get him to settle down and just play with confidence,” Longhorns coach Charlie Strong said. “I told him, ‘Listen, I’m not asking you to go out there and be a great player today. I just want you to go out there and do what we ask.’ ”

Miles Onyegbule, who last played quarterback when he was at Arlington High, took snaps for the second team and also struggled in the first half.

He capped the scrimmage’s first drive with a 1-yard touchdown run but was sacked four times and committed three turnovers, including a first-quarter interception safety Mykkele Thompson returned 36 yards for a touchdown.

Strong mentioned his desire to put “good on good” earlier in the week, but the first-team offense never faced the first-team defense.

“I wanted our 1s to come out with some confidence,” Strong said. “Usually when you match up 1s on 1s, if the offense doesn’t score, then they feel like they’re a long ways away or, if the offense throws the ball [well], the defense feels like they can’t stop anybody.”

To those on the outside looking in, that could be frustrating. But to those who aren’t, it doesn’t seem to matter.

“We had 14 practices with good on good,” senior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “We know exactly what we did this spring. I feel like we all had the opportunity to go 1s vs. 1s and 2s vs. 2s for 14 straight practices. It’s not a big deal for us.”

Swoopes threw the ball well in the second half, dumping the ball off to Malcolm Brown, who ran for a game-high 82 yards and a touchdown, for a 6-yard score late in the third quarter.

On the third play of the ensuing drive, Swoopes delivered his best ball of the day, a 44-yard strike squeezed between two defenders to Jaxon Shipley for his third touchdown toss of the day.

“To be able to push through that and forget about the bad plays he made, I think that shows maturity,” said Shipley, who caught six passes for 95 yards, both team-highs. “He threw an interception there at the beginning but, as the game went on, he got more comfortable and completed more balls. That last one he threw to me was a great ball. He really fit it in there.”

Ash, who missed 10 games last season with multiple head injuries, underwent surgery last week to repair a fracture in his left foot.

He is expected to return in time for fall camp and, although no announcement has been made, it seems like a foregone conclusion that he will eventually be named Texas’ starting quarterback.

“When you look at the quarterback position, it’s a position that’s going to get a lot of praise and a lot of criticism,” Strong said. “Your team’s not going to go until your quarterback goes. We have to get better there, with Ash or Swoopes or whoever it is.”

Until then, this is Swoopes’ squad.

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