Malcolm Brown

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

While no Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the one-year drought is likely to end this weekend. 

Texas has five prospects who are projected to hear their names called at the draft, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks,     cornerback Quandre Diggs, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.

“It feels like just yesterday I was walking on this campus as a young, 220-pound freshman not knowing anything,” Hicks said. “After five years, just to be here and to be going through this process, it’s really rewarding for all of us.” 

Malcom Brown may be the first Longhorn picked after he shot up draft boards while racking up 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. His 6-foot-2, 319-pound frame is ideal for the NFL, and he’s the No. 20-ranked prospect, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. 

“Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long,” Mayock said on “He’s a low-risk investment and a really good football player.” 

While Malcom Brown will find his new home early, Hicks is also a standout prospect. 

Hicks came to Texas as a five-star prospect but battled injuries, causing him to fly under the radar as a pro prospect. He impressed scouts, however, during his senior year and in pre-draft workouts, which was enough for him to earn a fourth-round grade, according to 

While Malcom Brown and Hicks are highly touted prospects, Diggs and Reed will likely find more modest roles in the NFL despite being perennial mainstays in Texas’ defense. 

Diggs is undersized at 5 feet 9 inches and will most likely make his living on special teams, and Reed lacks the athleticism that NFL scouts desire. Both are projected to be picked during the fifth round or later.

The Longhorns’ main offensive prospect is Malcolm Brown, who led Texas in total rushing yards last season but still feels he has a lot to prove at the next level. 

“I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show these past couple of years due to injuries, and things didn’t go completely my way,” Malcolm Brown said. 

While projects Malcolm Brown to be a late-round pick, several scouts think he has NFL-caliber skills. 

“[Malcolm Brown] possesses the size, toughness and ability to play on all three downs, and that will catch the eyes of teams looking for depth at running back,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on 

While these Longhorns were longtime contributors for the program, their chapters at Texas will come to a close as they find a new home and a new start this weekend. 

“It’s definitely a different feeling not being a student and not being a current athlete here,” Diggs said. “At the same time, it’s time for a new journey in life.”

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Tuesday marked head coach Charlie Strong’s first NFL Pro Day with Texas, where he saw 14 Longhorns perform for scouts and coaches from 25 different teams in the league.

The five players who participated in last month’s NFL Combine — defensive tackle Malcom Brown, running back Malcolm Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive end Cedric Reed and cornerback Quandre Diggs — mostly focused on position drills as they tried to establish a spot in the NFL Draft. 

Diggs participated in the vertical jump and the broad jump, reaching 36 inches and 9 feet 11 inches, respectively. Malcolm Brown ran in the 40-yard dash, aiming to beat his time of 4.62 from the Combine. He clocked in around 4.5 seconds.

“I definitely believe I am one of the best cornerbacks in this class,” Diggs said. “A lot of people have made a big to do about my size. It is one thing if you’re 6 foot 1 inch but are soft. I know the kind of player I am, and I let my play speak for itself.”

Reed, after only taking part in the bench press at the combine, did not participate in the Pro Day. He is still recovering from meniscus surgery he had during the offseason.

Tuesday was crucial for wide receivers Jaxon Shipley and John Harris and safety Mykkele Thompson, who weren’t invited to the Combine. 

Shipley ran between a 4.43 and a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and jumped a 39-inch vertical. During wide receiver drills, his routes were clean, and he showed scouts the strong hands Texas fans were familiar with.

“Coming out here today, I really want to surprise some people with my speed,” Shipley said. “I also wanted people understand that, even with injuries in college, I can still play at a high level.”

Shipley said he felt good about his performance and was glad to talk with a couple of scouts following his workouts.

Thompson also looked strong in all of his drills, especially the broad jump, which was around 10 feet 9 inches. His broad jump would have been better than many guys at the combine, including Alabama safety Landon Collins and LSU cornerback Jalen Collins.

Harris, one of the Longhorns few offensive weapons last season, gave a good performance.  He completed 19 reps on the bench press and ran a 40-yard time of about 4.5. On the his last attempt for the 40, Harris pulled his hamstring, but it didn’t bother him the rest of the day.

“At this time last year, I was not really paying attention to Pro Day,” Harris said. “I remember coming to watch for a little while but quickly leaving. Now, a year later, a lot has changed.”

The Longhorn prospects still have a long process ahead of them, with individual team workouts and meetings before the NFL Draft on April 30 through May 2.


Advantage: TCU

TCU junior quarterback Trevone Boykin is the key to the second-best scoring offense in the country. Boykin may be the quickest running quarterback that the Longhorns have faced this season, but his 59.3 completion percentage is unbecoming of a Heisman contender. 

Sophomore Tyrone Swoopes has the talent to revitalize the Texas offense as Boykin has done TCU, but the results have been inconsistent this season. Swoopes’ rushing totals have dropped off recently, and he will have to start using his big arm more intelligently.


Advantage: TCU

TCU feature back B.J. Catalon’s status is still up in the air for Thursday due to a shoulder injury that has held the junior out of his last two contests. His backup, junior Aaron Green, has performed brilliantly in relief and is a threat to score on every carry.

Junior Johnathan Gray has been on a tear in recent weeks despite senior Malcolm Brown getting most of the team’s carries. Gray’s explosiveness and Brown’s hard running style are just now combining to create the dangerous backfield that Texas was lacking in the season’s early going.


Advantage: Texas

Senior Jaxon Shipley got shaken up against Oklahoma State, but the coaching staff says he will be ready Thursday. His uncanny ability to get open will be a great help to a young quarterback playing against the Horned Frog’s confusing 4-2-5 defense.

TCU’s leading receiver, junior Josh Doctson, has been relatively quiet this season, save for a 225-yard game against Oklahoma State, but his 6-foot-4 frame still makes him a threat anywhere on the field, and a strong supporting cast has picked up the slack.


Advantage: TCU

This group was a major question mark for TCU back in August, but the offensive line, led by senior tackle Tayo Fabuluje, has meshed well over the course of the season. Run blocking is always solid, but pass protection has been a problem at times for the Horned Frogs.

The unit that was once a deadweight dragging down the Texas offense has stepped up in recent weeks. Sophomore right tackle Camrhon Hughes has worked his way back from some rough performances and is now an important cog on a unit that has started five straight games together.


Advantage: Texas

The defensive line has looked like one of the best units in the country in the last few contests. The Hassan Ridgeway-Malcom Brown combo has clogged the middle all season and most recently helped hold Oklahoma State to just 34 yards on the ground. 

Three of the four starters on TCU’s defensive line were high school teammates, and their excellent chemistry has helped hold opponents to just 3.1 yards per rush. Chucky Hunter, a hefty senior defensive tackle, has made life miserable between the tackles for opposing running backs.


Advantage: Texas

Senior Jordan Hicks has turned around a defense that was embarrassingly bad at times last season. His linebacking colleagues, senior Steve Edmond and junior Peter Jinkens, have played well enough this season to indicate they can help neutralize Boykin’s run threat.

Linebacker Paul Dawson is a game changer against the run and the pass. The senior has snagged three interceptions, made 15 tackles for a loss and recorded five sacks in 2014. He could add to those totals against Texas’ inexperienced linemen and quarterback.


Advantage: TCU

Senior cornerback Kevin White has been locking down receivers all season. The secondary will give up significant yardage, but a crew of ball-hawking safeties, including junior Chris Hackett, who has six interceptions on the season, makes up for it with big plays.

Quandre Diggs’ move from nickelback to corner has done wonders for the pass defense. He may be needed in run support against an explosive TCU ground game, leaving inconsistent safeties Dylan Haines and Mykkele Thompson to neutralize the air attack. 


Advantage: TCU

B.J. Catalon’s injury could leave the Horned Frogs without a returner who is averaging 31.8 yards per attempt. Sophomore punt returner Cameron Echols-Luper has a return touchdown on the season, and junior kicker Jaden Oberkrom has been solid all year.

The Longhorn special teams have played well enough this season to show they can neutralize Echols-Luper and the Horned Frogs’ explosive return game. Good kick coverage will mean little if senior punter Michael Davidson continues to perform inconsistently.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

In the multi-faceted world of Texas football training, coaches hold an all-freshmen practice each preseason to identify young talent. Watching as the newcomers run a series of drills, the coaching staff looks to nail down where each freshman will best contribute to the team.

This year, one drill stood out — the cross-field catch drill, which players also run at the NFL combine.  

“You’ll fire about six balls at them, and they have to rapid-fire catch them,” said Shawn Watson, assistant head coach for offense/quarterbacks. “They have to move because they’re flying across the field.”

Though the drill generally caters to receivers and other offensive players primed to catch, Andrew Beck, who was recruited to play linebacker, excelled beyond the coaches’ expectations. As Beck showed “the best hand-eye coordination of the whole group,” according to Watson, the coaching staff began to reevaluate.

“I started politicking right away,” Watson said. “I ran up to [head coach] Charlie [Strong] and said, ‘Hey, 47 has got unbelievable hands, and he can run.’”

It was no secret that Texas’ offensive line was weak. With building suspensions and, later, the season-ending injury of senior center Dominic Espinosa, the offensive line needed far more help than the defensive line did. As the coaches began to piece together their strengths and weaknesses, they decided that Beck would best contribute as a tight end. As his relevance on the team skyrocketed, so did the breadth of his responsibilities.

With a new and learning offensive line, senior running back Malcolm Brown said he and the running backs rely on Beck and senior tight end Geoff Swaim to open the field.

“Those guys — they’re running routes; they’re pass-blocking; they’re run-blocking. … They’re getting in the backfield with us sometimes,” Brown said Nov. 4. “They’re doing so many things with this offense; and they’re so important to this offense; and they know that; and they’ve been doing a great job handling it.”

Beck didn’t enter the tight end position completely blindsided. He played some tight end his senior year at Plant High School in Tampa, Florida, but his success at linebacker garnered him attention. ESPN ranked Beck the No. 46 outside linebacker in the country, and 247 Sports deemed him the No. 66 player in Florida.

Even so, Beck has adapted to his position, making his first start on offense against West Virginia. Statistics don’t tell the story of Beck’s contributions, since his quality of play enhances others’ games rather than helping just himself.

“The Texas Tech game was where he got his most time — that’s the first time we felt like [he] had an intimate knowledge of what we were trying to do,” Watson said. “You could see him executing it during the week on film. He’s been really good since. His confidence level has skyrocketed since that game.”           

As sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes continues to develop and Texas’ running game offers greater certainty, the Longhorns are likely to look for production on the ground. The running backs can’t produce without solid blocking, but Brown feels confident the tight ends will do their part. He knows the skill their role requires.

“Those guys have been grinding it out,” Brown said. “They have a tough job. Those coaches expect a lot out of them, just like the rest of us.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Entering the weekend, the Texas football season had been mostly noted for its missed opportunities. The Longhorns entered their matchup against No. 23 West Virginia 0-4 against top-25 teams, riding a seven-game losing streak against ranked teams.

All of that changed Saturday when the Longhorns played their best half of the season in the game’s first 30 minutes, and the defense held strong in the second half to beat the Mountaineers, 33-16.

The win marks the first time Texas has notched consecutive victories under first-year head coach Charlie Strong.

“It’s a really good win for our program,” Strong said. “We just, week by week, we continue to get better.”

The Longhorns managed to strike first on a 2-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes to senior tight end Geoff Swaim. The Mountaineers responded with a 48-yard kick return and managed to drive the ball inside the Texas 2-yard line.

However, the Longhorns held tough against the wall near the end zone, stuffing the Mountaineers on third-and-goal at the Texas 1-yard line. The Mountaineers came away from the drive with a field goal, but the goal-line stand made a statement.

“I think that kind of set the momentum,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “The crowd was into it; the defense was able to stop them. We got a few tackles for losses and held them there on the goal line. That’s gigantic.”

The Longhorns gashed the Mountaineers on the ground to the tune of 227 yards, including 101 yards by junior running back Johnathan Gray. Senior running back Malcolm Brown added 90 yards on the ground on 20 carries.

The duo was especially effective during the second quarter, in which the Longhorns scored 17 unanswered points, highlighted by two long runs from Gray.

The first went for 39 yards and a score, while the second run followed a 25-yard run by Brown, in which Gray hit the hole for a 40-yard gain. Gray capped the drive from two yards out to give the Longhorns a 21-3 lead.

“[The] offensive line did a great job opening holes,” Gray said. “They knew what we had to do to get the job done tonight, and they did it.”

On the other side of the ball, senior defensive end Cedric Reed dominated the Mountaineers’ offensive line with three sacks. Reed’s penchant for finding the quarterback was akin to his play last season, marking a bounce-back performance after recording only 1.5 sacks through the first nine games this year.

“Tonight, after I got that first sack, I went up to Coach [Chris] Rumph and told him, ‘Sacks come in bunches, so you better watch out,’” Reed said.

The Mountaineers ended up outgaining the Longhorns by nearly 100 yards but were held to a season-low 16 points and did not get into the end zone until early in the fourth quarter.

Texas won the battles on third and fourth downs, allowing West Virginia to convert only 3-of-17 third-down attempts and 3-of-5 fourth-down attempts.

“We had to win on third down, and we were able to win on third and fourth down,” Strong said.

The win was a step toward bowl eligibility for the Longhorns, who are now 5-5 on the season and need to win at least one of their final two contests. Despite defeating a top-25 opponent at home for the first time since 2008, some players were hesitant to call Saturday a signature win.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Reed said. “It’s just another win — another Big 12 win."

With senior Malcolm Brown graduating and junior Johnathan Gray possibly, although unlikely, leaving early for the NFL draft, Texas is going to be looking for their next stable of running backs to lead the balanced running attack that head coach Charlie Strong wants. The 2015 recruiting class has three backs already committed to the Longhorns, each with their own set of skills that could bolster the run game for the next four years.

Committed since April, Tristian Houston is a 5’10” 203-pound speedster from North Shore High School in Houston. Rated as a four-star prospect by ESPN, Houston also held offers from UCLA, LSU and Mississippi State among others. Houston ran for 18 TDs and almost 1500 yards as a junior, netting him around 10 yards a carry. On tape, it’s clear that Houston will not be used in short yardage situations, as he tends to rely on quick cuts and shifty moves over physical running. He figures to factor in as a more Johnathan Gray-type back, able to run past defenders if he gets a step but not the guy you want in with two yards to go on third down.

Kirk Johnson only had one college offer when he ended his junior year at Valley Christian in San Jose, California. That one was from Texas. The 6-foot-one 200-pound bruiser battled injuries his junior year, leading him to poor showings at a Nike event last summer and unimpressive highlight tapes. His father, Longhorn Johnnie Johnson, said he was only ever at 60 percent last season, causing him to miss a few games and make a few colleges back off their recruitment. Assuming the younger Johnson can heal enough to play like his sophomore tape suggests he can, however, Texas could be glad other schools backed out. He has the potential to combine his sub 4.5 speed and strong legs into a dangerous back, with the ability run past and through defenders.

Jordan Stevenson out of football powerhouse South Oak Cliff in Dallas is a smaller back than the previous two. At only 5-foot-eight 185 pounds, Stevenson will have to rely on his speed to be successful out of the backfield. Good thing he ran a 4.37 40 at the Dallas NFTC event in 2013, which matches most elite high school track stars. Though he’s not going to be able to translate into a power back in college, his ability to get a low center of gravity and run behind his pads makes him difficult to bring down in the open field. One of Stevenson’s best attributes is utilizing his speed, running laterally as little as possible because he knows how shifty he is, and how hard he can be to catch.

Out of the three RB commits Texas has already acquired, I’d put my bets on Jordan Stevenson to get on the field early and often. Johnson is a bit of a wild card after an injury plagued season, and Houston hasn’t been utilized enough at North Shore to see what all he is capable of. I’d be surprised if Texas was able to pull anymore backs into this class, but don’t ever count out backs coach Tommie Robinson’s recruiting savvy.

With veteran running backs — senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray — leading the rushing attack, expectations were high for the Texas ground game in 2014.

Brown finished the 2013 season on a hot streak, rushing for 841 yards in the final eight games and eclipsing the century mark five times. Gray suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in last season’s game against West Virginia but still managed to rack up 780 rushing yards in less than nine complete contests.

Together, they figured to be a dominant one-two punch that would carry the offense. However, that was before injuries and disciplinary issues mangled the offensive line, leaving a unit with only five career starts under its belt entering Texas’ second game of the season.

Predictably, the offensive line struggled to produce holes in that loss to BYU, and the running backs averaged only 2.34 yards per attempt — the lowest per-attempt average since gaining 2.32 yards per carry in a 2011 victory over Texas A&M.

But, eight weeks later, the Longhorn rushing attack had its most productive game of the season in last Saturday’s victory over Texas Tech. In total, they gained a season-high 241 yards on the ground, averaging 4.73 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns.

Brown reached triple digits on the ground in the win, becoming the first Longhorn to do so this season.

“It’s really about we just got some push up front,” Brown said. “I said it before — the offensive line was comfortable, and I could see it throughout practice. It was real simple for them, and it made it a whole lot easier for me. I definitely did catch a little rhythm, and it just went from there.”

This success on the ground is something the Longhorns hope to be able to build on in the season’s final three games.

“It’s definitely encouraging,” junior center Taylor Doyle said. “It’s very exciting to see our backs run the way they did, and we obviously feed off that as an offensive line.”

But Texas’ improvements running the football are not just a result of better offensive line play.

“I think you have to put into not only the offensive line but the tight ends and the fullback and then our H, which is our lead — our adjuster that does the same work a fullback does for us,” said Shawn Watson, Texas’ assistant head coach for the offense. “Those kids all played really well.”

In particular, tight ends — freshman Andrew Beck and senior Geoff Swaim — have played a crucial role in lead blocking to open up some holes for the backs.

“They’re doing so many things with this offense, and they’re so important to this offense, and they know that, and they’ve been doing a great job handling it,” Brown said.

Meanwhile, Gray finally looks like he has fully recovered from last year’s injury. In particular, on a 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter last weekend, he cut around a Texas Tech safety for the score  — a move that he did not seem to be able to make in the early weeks of the season.

“[On] the touchdown run, the move he made on the safety to create the run, the finish of the run, was something you don’t see a lot,” Watson said.

For the first time all season, both backs played at a high level at the same time, finally proving how potent the duo could be together.

The Longhorns hope to continue their success on the ground this weekend against a Mountaineer defense that has surrendered 200 or more rushing yards in four out of nine contests. West Virginia dropped three of those four games.

Texas Wins

… If the defense plays up to its standard. After poor performances against Iowa State and Kansas State, the Longhorns rebounded against Texas Tech, only allowing 225 passing yards against the pass-happy Red Raiders. If Texas can get another great performance from the defense, it can expect to become one win closer to bowl eligibility.

… If the running game can be productive. Texas hasn’t had the production that it expected from its rushing attack this season. With two good running backs in senior Malcolm Brown and junior Johnathan Gray, the Longhorns thought the running game would be their offensive identity, but that plan didn’t come to fruition. But against Texas Tech, the Longhorns finally got their first 100-yard rushing performance from Brown, and they amassed 241 rushing yards. If Texas can get the same production from Brown and Gray against West Virginia, Texas could pull off the upset.

If sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes continues to improve. Swoopes has had a whirlwind season full of ups and downs. The Longhorns will need Swoopes to be at the top of his game in order to beat West Virginia and keep their bowl hopes alive.

… If the special teams are perfect. Junior kicker Nick Rose had a pretty rough start to his season, but he’s continued to improve throughout the year. The punt-return and kick-return teams have also gotten better each week. If the special teams play an error-free game against the Mountaineers, Texas will be in a good position to win Saturday.

Texas Loses

… If the Longhorns can’t contain West Virginia’s passing attack. The Mountaineers rank 11th in passing yards per game, averaging 325.8 yards per contest. If Texas can’t stop West Virginia passing game, it will be a
long afternoon.

… If Texas can’t stop the Mountaineers’ leading receiver, Kevin White. The senior has recorded 1,075 receiving yards and eight touchdowns this season. If the Longhorns want to stop West Virginia’s passing attack, it’s imperative that they contain White.

… If the Longhorn offense struggles. While it may seem obvious, the Longhorn offense needs to play especially well to pull off a victory Saturday. Against top teams, such as Baylor and Kansas state, the offense has really struggled. Texas needs Swoopes and co. to be at their best to knock off the Mountaineers.

Senior wide receiver John Harris recorded a career-high 165 yards Saturday against Texas Tech, catching five passes for his third 100-plus-yard game of the season.
Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Entering Saturday’s game against Texas Tech at 3-5, the Longhorns knew what a loss would mean for their hopes of attaining bowl eligibility. But their quest for win number four started with an early score, and the Longhorns shut out the Red Raiders in the second half to help secure the victory. Here are a few key observations from the win:

Longhorns run well

Entering the season, many pegged senior running back Malcolm Brown as a player with the potential to rush for over 1,000 yards in 2014. The feat would make him the first Longhorn to run for quadruple digits since Jamaal Charles in 2007.

He nearly accomplished that feat last year, despite barely getting any carries through the first five games of the season and splitting carries with junior running back Johnathan Gray before Gray’s season-ending Achilles injury.

Through eight games this season, though Brown has struggled behind a depleted offensive line and most recently only carried the ball six times in a shutout loss to Kansas State.

Twenty-two carries later against Texas Tech, Brown turned in Texas’ first 100-yard rushing performance of the season, running for 116 yards and two scores.

Gray also looked his best since his injury nearly a year ago, running for 77 yards on 17 carries, including a score from 17 yards out. In all, the Longhorns ran for a season-high 241 yards behind an inexperienced offensive line that is improving every week.

“The thing about it, our offensive line played well,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “They can get on people, get in the way, and let those backs take the ball and just run behind their pack.”

Defense forces turnovers

Following the loss to Kansas State, several Longhorn defensive players said, despite the unit playing fairly well, they needed to force some turnovers to put the offense in position to score.

They did just that by forcing two turnovers against Tech. The first occurred in the second quarter when senior cornerback Quandre Diggs simultaneously knocked the ball out of freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ hands and knocked the young quarterback out of the game.

“It was just a good hit,” Diggs said. “Came in, saw he was running, did what I was supposed to do to get my team fired up. That’s plays I need to make each and every week to get the guys going and do what I do.”

The ensuing fumble was recovered by junior defensive end Shiro Davis, and the Longhorns scored five plays later to regain the lead at 10-6.

Following Mahomes’ injury, walk-on freshman quarterback Vincent Testaverde took over behind center for Tech and threw the games’ lone interception to senior safety Mykkele Thompson in the fourth quarter.

The defense broke up 10 passes throughout the game but only intercepted one.

Harris continues big year

Senior wide receiver John Harris posted a career-high 165 receiving yards, catching five balls for his third 100-yard performance of the season and of his career. Harris’ career-long, 68-yard grab in the second quarter helped put the Longhorns in control of the game.

“The way we run it in practice, that ball goes to Shipley, so I was kind of in shock when he threw it,” Harris said. “But he was expecting me to go make a play, and those guys on defense were expecting me to make a play, so that’s what I gotta go do.”

Harris has now caught 48 passes for 814 yards and six scores this season. Before 2014, Harris had just 9 catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns in his entire career.

Junior running back Jonathan Gray ran 17 times for 77 yards against Texas Tech on Saturday, as the Longhorns captured their third-straight road victory against the Red Raiders.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

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.”