Texas' 30-7 win over TCU on Saturday was mostly uneventful, outside of a three-hour delay thanks to lightning in the area.
But with under five minutes remaining in the game, Longhorns head coach Mack Brown added a spark of his own, so to speak, by playing freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes—and burning his redshirt.
Brown's hot-seat talk may be muted for the moment, but the longtime head coach sure knows how to initiate teeth gnashing and hair pulling even when things are going well.
And Swoopes' redshirt status has been about as hot a topic as Brown's future:
Mack on Swoopes: "We said we were not redshirting him, we wanted to play him some. Hard to get meaningful time when you're trying to win"— Alex Loeb (@SpanningTheLoeb) October 27, 2013
The talented freshman made waves during UT's spring game, but he was sitting behind senior Case McCoy and starter David Ash on the depth chart. But then came Ash's head injury. Concussion-like symptoms have kept Ash from playing for the better part of the past six weeks, leaving the offense in the hands of McCoy.
Putting Swoopes into game action has been a topic Brown has addressed multiple times already. Brown said on the Big 12 coaches teleconference this past week that Swoopes was more likely to get playing time with the uncertainty surrounding Ash.
With each passing week, it becomes increasingly unclear if Ash will return this season. In fact, Brown said after the game that Ash won't play in Week 10 against Kansas. In that situation, it would make sense to get Swoopes game reps. Longhorns offensive coordinator Major Applewhite essentially confirmed as much, per ESPN Texas:
Applewhite: "It’s a fluid situation. We don’t know what’s going to happen with David.” Want Swoopes to get ready for rest of season.— ESPN Texas (@ESPNTexas) October 27, 2013
If Swoopes is as good as his spring game indicated, he could be ready to play right away too. Thus, his redshirt wouldn't necessarily be needed, as ESPN's Travis Haney notes:
A counter-thought on Swoopes redshirt thing. If he's THAT good, it might not matter.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) October 27, 2013
Thing is, though, no one knows for sure if Swoopes is that good. At least not yet. Swoopes recorded three carries for minus-two yards and no pass attempts in garbage time against the Frogs.
But now that the redshirt is gone, will Swoopes' role in the offense increase? McCoy, for all of his odd heroics, isn't the most consistent quarterback. He was 9-of-19 passing for 228 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against TCU. He's capable of making beautiful throws down the field and equally capable of making ugly throws that result in turnovers.
The Longhorns have been rolling since their back-to-back losses to BYU and Ole Miss in September, but they end the season against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor. What if McCoy's confidence in his own passing game gets Texas into trouble instead of out of it?
Brown has expressed the utmost confidence in McCoy, and there's no reason to think that's changed, but that's not to say it couldn't later. If Ash isn't coming back from his injury, Texas needs to be prepared for the worst-case scenario anyway.
That preparation began against TCU.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.