Texas QB Swoopes still struggling after 4 starts

Publish date:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Charlie Strong saw Tyrone Swoopes sitting down for lunch and the Texas coach quickly walked over to offer a big handshake and an even bigger smile before the small talk ended with a chuckle.

This is how Strong wants to handle his struggling sophomore quarterback: Build him up. Don't tear him down.

Four starts into his career, Swoopes is in need of a big lift, coming off a poor performance in a loss to Baylor that sends the Longhorns(2-3, 1-1 Big 12) into Saturday's rivalry game against No. 11 Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1) on a two-game skid.

''You always want him to have confidence,'' Strong said. ''When you're good on offense, it's going to come from your quarterback position. When he has it going, then your offense is going to get going.''

Little has been going right for the Texas offense of late, and Longhorns fans who clamored for Swoopes to get on the field as a freshman last season are starting to wonder if he's really their future.

Swoopes took over for injured starter David Ash (concussion symptoms) after the first game. Since then, Ash has retired from football and Strong has shown no inclination to pull the redshirt from backup freshman Jerrod Heard.

Texas ranks No. 114 nationally in total offense. Texas' average of 18.4 points also ranks No. 114, but take away the 38 points in the season opener when Ash was the starter, and the Longhorns are scoring only 13.2 points over the last four games.

Swoopes himself is ranked No. 97 nationally in the NCAA's pass efficiency ratings. He has five touchdowns, three interceptions and 734 yards with a 59 percent completion rate.

After showing steady improvement after his first start, Swoopes seemed to take a big step backward against Baylor with missed throws and three turnovers. A touchdown in the final three minutes helped Texas avoid its first home shutout since 1976.

Even when things go well, something goes wrong. Swoopes' best moment was shattered by his worst.

After driving Texas off their own 1, Swoopes fumbled a snap at the Baylor goal line, preventing a tying score just before halftime. What could have been a season-changing, 99-yard drive turned into a 98-yard gaffe.

Swoopes acknowledged that after taking several hits, he started getting nervous in the pocket. After the game, Strong merely called the fumble ''tough'' and deflected criticism of Swoopes. But Strong has taken a soft approach with him from the start.

Last spring, when Swoopes was put with the No. 1 offense after Ash broke a bone in his foot, Strong promised that Swoopes would face the No. 1 defense in the annual scrimmage. But Strong changed his mind on game day, sending Swoopes out against the No. 2 defense.

Strong said immediately afterward he was trying to build his confidence. Swoopes said Monday that his coach continues to be encouraging.

''He always tells me to be confident in myself, because if I'm not confident in myself, nobody else will be,'' Swoopes said. ''The veterans have told me they believe in me. That's helps a lot to know the guys who have been here a while believe in me to lead them to victory.''

Swoopes is aware that the Texas-Oklahoma game can define a quarterback's legacy. Peter Gardere beat Oklahoma four times, earning the nickname ''Peter the Great.'' Chris Simms lost two gut-wrenching games. Colt McCoy beat the Sooners three times and his younger brother Case led Longhorns to a startling upset last season.

''People were telling (Case) all week he couldn't (win),'' Swoopes said. ''He just went out there on Saturday and showed that he could.''