Longhorns ground and pound their way to a win in the rain
Tyrone Swoopes has reinvented himself, and the Texas Longhorns are the beneficiaries of that transformation.
Swoopes, a junior demoted from starting quarterback one game into the season, became a situational player employed by coach Charlie Strong primarily in short-yardage situations.
On Saturday, the 244-pound Swoopes scored three touchdowns and the Longhorns defeated Kansas State 23-9 in game played in a heavy rainstorm.
"I’ve always told Tyrone, even when we made that change . `listen, there is no reason for you to hang your head,’ " Strong said. "You’re still going to be part of it, and you never know when you’re going to show up."
Swoopes, the starter last season, and for the Longhorns’ 2015 opener at Notre Dame, scored his first two touchdowns Saturday on short runs, but his last one, which secured victory, covered 10 yards with 1:47 remaining. Swoopes ran for 13 and 29 yards on the previous two plays.
Two weeks earlier, Swoopes ran for a touchdown and threw for another in an upset of Oklahoma — both short-yardage situations near the goal line.
Late in the game Saturday, Strong inserted Swoopes for an entire drive that started at the Texas 48 after an interception by Longhorn safety Dylan Haines. Swoopes carried the ball on all three plays, gaining 52 yards.
Swoopes, a somewhat timid runner last season, now plows over defenders. His package of short-yardage plays is named 18 Wheeler; he wears jersey No. 18.
"I enjoy it," Swoopes said. "It’s fun."
Texas (3-4, 2-2 Big 12) rushed for 274 yards, maintaining a strength the Longhorns established with 313 yards on the ground — its most since 2013 — during a victory against Oklahoma on Oct. 10.
Tailback Johnathan Gray led Texas with 103 yards against Kansas State (3-4, 0-4), which has lost four consecutive games for the first time since 2005.
Charles Jones, Kansas State’s junior running back, rushed for a career-best 122 yards. Jones gained 87 in the second half.
The Longhorns made their intentions known right away, running the ball on nearly every play while building a 16-6 halftime lead.
Texas gained 188 yards on the ground in the half, including 89 by Gray and 73 from quarterback Jerrod Heard. Gray set up one touchdown with a 46-yard burst along the right side in the second quarter.
Swoopes scored both touchdowns in the half, from 1 and 2 yards.
Heard attempted just four passes in the half, three of them short, underhand flips to wide receiver Daje Johnson on sweeps that were more like handoffs.
The only conventional pass that Heard threw in the half was incomplete.
Texas dominated the half until Kansas State responded with a 78-yard touchdown drive that the Wildcats finished with 32 seconds remaining. Dominique Heath scored on a 7-yard pass from Joe Hubener.
The touchdown snapped a streak in which Kansas State was outscored 78-0 by TCU, Oklahoma and Texas.
Hubener completed 10 of 22 for 97 yards. He was sacked five times.
Heard completed 10 of 15 for 99 yards, but only a few of his completions were downfield in the rain.
"There was a moment in the second quarter where the ball really did feel like five pounds," Heard said.
Strong said he has not lost confidence in Heard.
"We’ve been able to win at the line of scrimmage," Strong said. "Let’s continue to pound people."
Hubener could relate to issues throwing through the storm.
"I have played in one rain ever," Hubener said. "This was No. 2 and it was really tough."