AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas unveiled the quicker up-tempo offense the Longhorns hope will carry them back to the top of the Big 12.
When it worked well, David Ash passed for touchdowns in four scoring drives Saturday night in Texas’ annual spring scrimmage. And when it didn’t, Ash threw two interceptions that looked like just the kind of gaffes that sometimes surfaced last season.
Coach Mack Brown stressed at the start of spring drills he wants the Longhorns to push a faster pace on offense, noting the success of other programs around the country doing it.
“I think we’ll go back to scoring points like we’re used to,” Brown said.
Texas didn’t use the up-tempo offense the entire scrimmage, but used enough of it that Brown said he liked what he saw and promised it will be polished into an even faster unit in the fall. Brown wants the ball snapped within 15 seconds and the offense was inconsistent hitting that mark.
“I like it,” Ash said of the quicker pace. “The spring game shows us where we’re at and we need to take ownership of that.”
Ash was 17 of 24 for 162 yards. Two of his first four drives against the No. 2 defense included a 38-yard touchdown pass to Mike Davis and a 24-yarder to Kendall Sanders. Ash threw his two interceptions when Texas sprinkled several starters into the defense against the first-time offense.
The first turnover was an improvised shuffle pass on a scramble that flew into a defender’s arms. The second came when Ash overthrew a deep route.
“He’s got to be smarter than that,” Brown said of the shuffle pass pickoff. “Other than that, he managed the game really well and made the right calls.”
The second turnover came just before halftime. Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who heads into his first full season as Texas’ play caller, said in a real game situation, the turnover would have cost Texas a chance to deliver a knockout punch to an opponent.
“I want him to be hard on himself in those situations, but he’s had a great spring,” Applewhite said.
The turnovers at least showed Brown a more opportunistic defense. The Longhorns had one of the worst defenses in school history last season when the Longhorns went 9-4 and tied for third in the Big 12.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said practicing against Texas’ up-tempo offense will get the Longhorns ready to face the high-powered offenses in the Big 12 like Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia.
“It will prepare us for what we’ll see in the fall,” Diaz said. “I wanted to see us play fast, tough and physical.”
Texas also got its first look at freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, who had two strong runs after breaking tackles in the backfield. Although Texas has a capable backup to Ash in senior Case McCoy, Brown said Swoopes has worked his way into the third spot.
Johnathan Gray rushed six times for 45 yards and a touchdown.
Texas hasn’t challenged for the Big 12 title since winning it in 2009. That will change in 2013, Ash said.
“We’re very experienced,” Ash said. “We’re going to contend for the Big 12 title.”