Almost as if he was back at Whitewright High School, taking advantage of overmatched 2A opponents, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and wait for the play to develop, as senior receiver John Harris took off down the field.
While Harris began to separate himself from the defender, Swoopes stepped into his throw and dropped a perfect pass right in the receiver’s breadbasket for a 68-yard gain. Senior running back Malcolm Brown found the end zone on the very next play to give the Longhorns a second quarter lead they would never relinquish en route to a 34-13 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday night.
“Just to watch [Swoopes], you could see the confidence building within him,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “I said, ‘Just keep playing, good things are going to happen for you.’”
A reeling Red Raider defense proved to be just what Swoopes and the Longhorn offense needed to finally put together a complete performance.
Swoopes finished the game with 228 yards and a scoring toss to senior receiver Jaxon Shipley, who caught his first touchdown in 358 days. The Texas running back duo of Brown and junior Johnathan Gray combined for 193 yards and three touchdowns, as Brown became the first Longhorn back to reach the 100-yard plateau this season.
“They ran behind their passing tonight. They were physical running,” Harris said. “We helped them out, but [Brown] and [Gray] ran hard tonight.”
The biggest reason for all the success on the ground was a gutsy performance from the Longhorn offensive line, which has typically been the team’s weakest position group this season.
“Our offensive line played well,” Strong said. “They can get on people, get in the way and let those backs take the ball and just run behind their pack.”
The Texas offense did turn the ball over twice, including a costly fumble that resulted in an easy scoop and score for the Texas Tech defense. The Longhorn defense rebounded to compensate for the offensive blunders, however.
Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford’s unit only gave up one score in the game and came up with a number of big plays to shift the momentum.
The most notable game-changer came just before the Swoopes deep ball in the second quarter, when senior defensive back Quandre Diggs crushed Tech’s freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes, knocking him out of the game and forcing a fumble in the process.
The hit was clean, but Diggs left the Red Raiders’ young quarterback wobbly with what appeared to be a very serious head injury.
“He signed up to play football,” Diggs said. “Sometimes that happens.”
With the win, the Longhorns got one step closer to gaining bowl eligibility this season. At 4-5, Texas will have to win two of its final three games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU in November.
“We can’t rest on it,” Diggs said. “It’s one win. We’re going to have fun tonight and enjoy it and tomorrow get back to watching film and learn from our mistakes we made tonight.”