Last year in South Bend nothing went right for Charlie Strong and his Longhorns. The Fighting Irish barely broke a sweat as they rolled to a 38-3 victory, in which the Texas offense only mustered 163 yards of total offense. Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes only completed 7 of 22 pass attempts for 92 yards and instantly was the subject of intense scrutiny after once being a recruit who arrived in Austin with sky high expectations.
Fast forward a year for round two of this home and home series. What if I told that after that showing in South Bend, that Swoopes would end up being the hero in the rematch? What if I told you that Texas would not have been able to win the rematch in Austin without Swoopes? I probably would have called myself a liar, so I know you would have done the same thing.
Swoopes plunged into the end zone in double overtime after making a free running defender miss at point blank range and sent the fireworks off and 102,000 people into an absolute frenzy as his teammates and coaches mobbed him. Personally, I couldn’t be happier for the kid, considering everything he has went through since he arrived in Austin. There was probably nobody on the field more deserving of getting mobbed aside from his own head coach, who has been just as heavily criticized.
Swoopes arrived to campus with sky high expectations after having a rough senior season and inexplicably had his redshirt removed during his first year to play in garbage time against TCU, as he only attempted 13 passes all year. The following season he was thrust into early action again when quarterback David Ash was knocked out of action for good with concussions, and the weight of the world was right back on his shoulders before he was probably ready. After getting pulled for Jerrod Heard last year and seeing his role diminished to the “18 Wheeler” package, instead of hanging his head and pouting about it, Swoopes embraced it and made the most of it. It was that very package that sent the Longhorns home winners over a favored Notre Dame squad who was ranked in the top 10. Swoopes deserves to be commended for being a great team player and for embracing his role on this team, because Texas would not have won the game last night without him.
While Swoopes may not be the second coming of Cameron Newton or Vince Young like many were trying to label him ass years ago, but he has found himself in a very valuable role within Sterlin Gilbert’s offense despite giving way to a true freshman after a back and forth battle all offseason. A comparison have seen used to describe the Buechele/Swoopes duo is the way Florida used a freshman Tim Tebow and senior quarterback Chris Leak, and I think that’s a pretty good composition given the roles that have been defined for both players. In this situation though, the script is flipped a bit, as the true freshman (Buechele) is the one in charge of engineering the entire offense and the spreading the ball out, and the senior quarterback (Swoopes) is the one being utilized through power run game out of the shotgun.
While we are discussing quarterbacks, how about the performance from the true freshmen quarterback Shane Buechele? For a kid who arrived in January and the last team he played was in the Texas high school football playoffs, Buechele did not look like a guy who was getting his first start. Buechele went 16 of 26 passing with two touchdowns and one interception, and tacked on another 33 yards on the ground and another touchdown down. Aside from the interception, Buechele didn’t look like a freshman out there last night as he guided the offense to a score on his very first series with a touchdown toss to Armanti Foreman. That drive was a tone setter for the rest of the game and signaled that the Texas offense wasn’t going to back down from the Fighting Irish this time around. The Texas outgained the Irish through the air and on the ground and rolled up 517 total yards, as offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert introduced himself to the college football world in a major way.
Not to be lost in all of this is the fact that Notre Dame has themselves a certified stud in junior quarterback Deshone Kizer. Kizer was surgical last week as he went 15 for 24 passing the ball and that included five touchdowns to no interceptions. Notre Dame head coach was adamant about there being a quarterback battle heading into this game, but to me and just about everyone else it was quite clear that Kizer is the guy that the Irish need to ride this year at the quarterback position. Kizer lead the charge that put the Irish back on top after being down 17 points at one point, and he played a very clean game.
Both teams showed plenty of offensive promise last night in Austin for it being the first game of the season, but it was the Longhorns who made one more play and ended up taking the victory. For both the Irish and the Longhorns there is plenty to be optimistic about for sure, but there are plenty both teams need to work on going forward.
So the big question now is how this impacts the outlook for Charlie Strong and Texas going forward both on the field and on the recruiting trail. Well for starters, Texas had a star studded lineup of recruits in attendance for last night’s big win, and that included guys like Marvin Wilson, Baron Browning, and Walker Little. This season was always going to be about Texas showing promising progress on the field and after last night’s victory I think they are on their way to showing just that. A big win over Notre Dame has reenergized a fan base that has been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for Texas’ football program to get back to the winning standard that it’s used to. With a big upset of Notre Dame to kick of the season, it certainly looks like Texas is on its way back to prominence and those who have been patient with Charlie Strong’s rebuild in Austin are about to be rewarded if last night was any indicator of things to come.