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Thoughts & analysis from the Longhorns’ win over Notre Dame

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Observations and analysis are given for Texas’ season-opening win

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

What. A. Game.

The Longhorns and Coach Strong wanted to prove to everyone they were an improved team. And in an exciting win over Notre Dame on a Sunday evening when TV’s across the country were tuned into the same football game, they did just that.

Thoughts/Analysis

  • What a difference a quarterback makes (and coordinator). For the first time in what feels like a decade, Texas has seemingly found a quarterback it can rely on to make plays through the air in Shane Buechele
  • And before we go further, let’s all pause to remind ourselves he’s just a true freshman. He showcased poise and steadiness of a multi-year veteran Sunday evening. And what’s maybe more impressive is that even after throwing an interception and almost a second in key parts of the game, he didn’t let that rattle him. It’s the kind of resilience where the phrase ‘he has “it” comes to mind.
  • Aside from some penalties that need correcting, this offense looked prepared and played well as a unit. Kudos to Sterlin Gilbert and his staff for that.
  • There probably isn’t a more perfect way things could have played out for the QB position in this opener. Both Buechele and Swoopes get to be the big-men-on-campus after that win. Throw in the electric plays Heard had, and it’s amazing to think instead of just transferring, all these guys are settling into their roles and contributing. The only thing missing was a Kai Locksley sighting - maybe it will come on kick returns?
  • The usage of Swoopes was damn near flawless. Sure, some plays got stuffed at the line. But Gilbert stuck to his guns and kept inserting him into the game in the right situations. And it clearly worked.
  • There were a handful of guys that made gritty plays to keep drives going. D’Onta Foreman, Swoopes, and Jake Oliver all fought for key extra yards in moments where the game could have flipped a different direction had the drives stalled.
  • Chris Warren struggled some. But I think the issue for him was partially the size of the ND defensive line. He’s a big dude, but so was ND’s front of its defense. He just couldn’t find much wiggle room nor could he really plow over the defenders up front. He’ll bounce back.
  • On the note of ND’s big defensive line, I would have liked to have seen what Kirk Johnson could have done last night. The combo of Foreman & Warren is a good one, but it lacks that next gear of speed. Johnson brings that.
  • John Burt ended the night with 111 yards and a touchdown and probably could have at least doubled those stats had he been able to haul in a couple more deep bombs. His speed is elite. And you have to capitalize on those passes where he has a step on the defensive back.
  • Jerrod Heard has a chance to be special in this offense.
  • There were at least two or three times where Jacorey Warrick was a step or two from breaking a short pass open for a bigger gain then what he was able to tally.
  • I don’t believe we saw Collin Johnson or Devin Duvernay. I’d chalk that up to freshmen waiting for their turn.
  • What a touchdown catch by Armanti Foreman. Someone from Texas needs to send the Foreman family a thank you card.
  • I thought the offensive line played pretty well in pass-protection - the speed of the plays/passes help that though. And although improvements need to be made, the unit didn’t get completely dominated when run-blocking. The hope here is that this group gels each week as the season progresses.
  • We saw freshman mistakes from Shackelford with two wild snaps. Luckily, Buechele fell back on both to keep the ball with Texas.
  • The best option at tight end/H-back is Bluiett thanks to his physical blocking.
  • Texas closed the first half well thanks to a Touchdown by Swoopes with just 1:12 left on the clock. Then it flipped around and hit Burt for a touchdown out of the half. Poor endings and sluggish starts were issues for the ‘Horns last season.
  • For the most part, in his first game, Trent Domingue contributed well kicking. But he has to get those PAT’s higher. Earlier in the game, before the blocked FG, he also had another kick that was tipped at the line - that one still went through.
  • Michael Dickson was absolutely crushing punts. One of his first ones went 58-yards and hung in the air for almost five full seconds. Count to five in your head. For a punt, that’s a long time for a football to be in the air.
  • Can you imagine if Texas had lost leaving us to sit hear and talk about the blocked field goal...
  • Hey, the ‘Horns had a blocked field of their own.
  • Speaking of special teams, the coverage units struggled some. And the return units weren’t as big of factors in this game as you would have liked.
  • The Texas defense will have mixed reviews after giving up 47 points, 35 of which came within regulation.
  • This defense still feels like a unit that’s at its best when its pressuring the quarterback. It struggled against ND to slow down the run game.
  • Malik Jefferson was again a freak against Notre Dame. Along with him, Naashon Hughes and Charles Omenihu stood out to me.
  • There isn’t another linebacker on roster that’s as good as Malik. But at some point, you’d like to see another linebacker emerge as a guy that makes a handful of plays in a game. Anthony Wheeler could be that guy but Texas just needs a bit more from him.
  • The secondary didn’t play as crisp as I thought it would. The group did have some key pass breakups. But it also lost receivers at times too. And I know it didn’t help playing against a future 1st-round draft pick in Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer.
  • Jason Hall is still at his best when he’s near the line of scrimmage. He made good plays up near the LOS. But I’d also like to see what Brandon Jones can do next to Elliott on the field.
  • Time and more development will also help improve this defense. Here’s a quick list of sophomores that are key contributors on defense right now - Malik Jefferson, Anthony Wheeler, Breckyn Hager, Charles Omenihu, Davante Davis, Holtin Hill, DeShon Elliott and PJ Locke III. And that’s not all of the young guys getting in there.
  • Maybe I’ll go back and look for them, but I didn’t notice any freshman defensive tackles in there too much. If they were, then they didn’t do much to catch my eye. Maybe I missed them though.
  • The ending to this game was nuts and one that deems this an instant classic. And what a show all the recruits got to see at that game. The win is already paying off as ‘17 Temple High defensive end Ta’quon Graham verbally committed to Texas on this Labor Day.
  • After the game, Charlie got the crowd-surf treatment again. This team really does love him and want to win for him.
  • Texas beat a good Notre Dame team, There’s no question about that.
  • After a performance like this, and seeing what other teams around the conference did this weekend, there’s no doubt that Texas can absolutely compete for the Big 12 Title this season if it keeps playing well and improves in some areas.
  • Not only did Strong show his team had improved, he won the game in huge upset on a national stage against the same team that embarrassed him and his team to open the season last year. If this is the turning point, the future is bright for the Longhorns.