Texas Sees the Future, Upsets Notre Dame 50-47 in 2OT

Watch the video above starting at about 2:55. Watch it twice, watch it five times if you have to. God knows I have. That’s the look and sound of vindication.

After the game, sweaty and elated in his orange mock turtleneck, head coach Charlie Strong will say, “One game does not make a season,” and he is right. But this game, a double-overtime win over No. 10 Notre Dame, is one hell of a way to kick off 2016.

Coming in to Sunday night, Strong had tallied a disappointing 11-14 career at Texas, with two straight losing seasons. Notre Dame was favored to win at DKR; Longhorn fans just wanted to avoid another drubbing like the one that opened the 2015 season in South Bend.

For all its talk of improvement, on the heels of a historic National Signing Day and the maturity of some highly touted underclassmen, Texas still had a long way to go. Heck, 10 minutes before kickoff, the rank and file in the Bill Little Press Box were still flinging starting QB prognostications against the floor-to-ceiling window.

And then it started out with a familiar—and for Texas fans, depressing—scene. Notre Dame won the toss, elected to receive, and marched down the field, capped off by a 13-yard receiving touchdown by the copy editor’s nightmare, Equanimeous St. Brown. Before tonight, Texas had never won a Charlie Strong-coached game in which the opponent scored first.

Then came the moment Texas fans had been waiting for. Would it be the senior Tyrone Swoopes or true freshman Shane Buechele under center for the Longhorn? Strong said he’d wait until the offense ran out onto the field, but offered up another nugget of truth after the game: On Saturday night, with Buechele at his side, he called his mother Nancy Buechele to let her know her son would be starting. Nancy cried. Shane stepped up, capping off a lightning-quick 11-play drive with a perfect loft to a streaking Armanti Foreman to tie the game at 7.

For the next half, Notre Dame and Texas traded scores and tried out quarterbacks, a combined four taking snaps from under center between the teams. When Texas ran into the locker room, both Buechele and Swoopes had added rushing scores of their own, and Texas was in command 21-14. Jerrod Heard, last year’s main starter and now a wide receiver, even flashed his trademark speed, burning a Notre Dame corner for a 68-yard reception.

The third quarter, the bane of Texas football under Strong, was mixed. Buechele hit sophomore WR John Burt for a 72-yard TD, redeeming the speedy wideout for an earlier drop. New kicker Trent Domingue hit his first field goal at Texas. But Notre Dame, with DeShone Kizer taking over, marched down the field for two easy scores, capped off by a throw to a wide open Torii Hunter Jr.—yes, that Torii Hunter—in the end zone to cut Texas’ lead to 31-28.

Then it seemed like business as usual for this Texas team, as if this would be a nightmarish repeat of Cal or Oklahoma State, two winnable games in 2015 that turned into bitter losses when the Longhorns couldn’t close out. On a big 3rd down stop, Antwuan Davis was called for holding, which led to another Kizer throwing TD, pulling the Irish ahead, 35-31.

A few drives later, the score still the same, Texas picked up the pace again, and D’Onta Foreman ran it in from 19 yards out to give Texas the lead again. But on the ensuing PAT, Domingue’s kick was blocked and returned for ND, resulting in two points and a 37-37 tie.

After the game, Malik Jefferson was asked if this team loses this game last year.

“Correct,” Jefferson said. So what changed?

“It’s passion. It’s love,” Jefferson said. “It’s what Coach Strong teaches every day. We knew what time it was.” Jefferson also took time to praise both Swoopes and Buechele.

“They’re fearless,” he said. “It comes from each other.”

In the second overtime, after the Texas defense held Notre Dame to a field goal, Tyrone Swoopes scored his second touchdown of overtime and his third of the game to win it for the Longhorns. More than 100,000 fans screamed their lungs out, so incredibly ready for a moment like this. After the game, Strong said what the screaming throng felt: “Our fans really needed that.”

There was no lone hero. Sure, the youngest son of former Texas Rangers third baseman Steve Buechele, the first true freshman to start at Texas since Bobby Layne in 1944, won his first college game with some laser-guided missiles to his speedy receivers. Linebacker Malik Jefferson anchored a stout Texas defense, seemingly everywhere on the field at all times. The three-headed monster of D’Onta Foreman, Chris Warren III, and Tyrone Swoopes combined for more than 200 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. It was a true Texas team win.

On “Nikes,” the opening track to Frank Ocean’s much anticipated album Blond, the singer croons “We’ll let you guys prophesy / We gonna see the future first.” It’s a response to the swarth of fans and critics who pressured him to release the album before he was ready. Simply, he’s in control, and he knows what is coming next.

No one short of a seer could have seen last night coming. Well, except those who saw the future first at Texas, as seen in the video above.

Quick notes:

  • The official tally was 102,315 fans in attendance, new DKR record.
  • Strong said after the game that the foul on the ensuing Texas kickoff stemming from the blocked extra point was the coach accidentally running into a sideline official. I noticed an official with an icepack on his lip after the game.
  • Australian punter Michael Dickson averaged an astounding 55 yards on his punts last night, including a booming 64-yarder.
  • Jake Oliver, a seldom-used junior WR, made some crucial catches on short crossing patterns to move the chains for the Longhorns, drawing comparisons to both Shipley brothers. Strong and the coaching staff praised his growth all offseason.
  • Texas ran an astounding 86 plays on offense, no doubt satisfying to new OC Sterlin Gilbert, who likes to play uptempo. After the game, when asked if that was “an OC’s dream,” he responded: “Absolutely. That was fun. Football is fun.” Indeed.
 

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