Lightning flashed and fans scattered as rain pounded the Dallas-Fort Worth area Saturday evening during Texas’ 30-7 win over TCU, a contest that stretched into Sunday morning after a three-hour six-minute weather delay.
But, if fans switched off their TV early, they may have missed the most important development of the evening: freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes seeing some snaps — and burning his redshirt along the way.
Swoopes entered the game with a little more than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. His stats weren’t impressive, as he had three rushing attempts for -2 yards, but head coach Mack Brown felt it necessary to give his backup quarterback some in-game experience in a low-pressure situation.
“What we wanted him to see is that he better get ready and needs to practice better because he may be playing from now on,” Brown said. “Case could have gotten his ankle sprained tonight, and [Swoopes] didn’t have experience, and now he does.”
Brown’s decision to play Swoopes will be dissected from every angle over the next few days, as the series of snaps cost Swoopes a potential extra year at Texas.
But the choice isn’t just about Swoopes, but rather about the availability of junior quarterback David Ash. After the game, Brown said Ash still has not been cleared to play, meaning he won’t be available against Kansas on Saturday, while co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite called the quarterback situation “fluid.”
The signs don’t look good for Ash to return, as he’s had multiple head injuries this season. Given the sensitive nature of concussions in sports at the moment, there is no way Ash plays before he’s completely healthy — nor should he.
This brings the conversation back to Swoopes. The freshman looks the part: He’s 6-foot-4-inches and 245 pounds with great arm strength and the fastest set of feet under center at Texas since Vince Young. But he lacks experience. The freshman hadn’t played in an actual game since his senior year of high school in Whitewright, a 2-A program.
Swoopes needed to be hit. Swoopes needed the game experience. Swoopes needed to know he could — and likely will — play again.
Texas has the talent to make a Big 12 title run, as it proved over the weekend, but if McCoy gets injured, that possibility would all but disappear unless Swoopes is ready to go.
His time on the field was brief, but those snaps may prove monumental down the line. Whether it’s because the freshman is needed this season, or he ends up leaving for the pros a year early remains to be seen. But for now, Brown made the right decision for this football team.