There was a shootout on the field in Austin, Texas Sunday night and Oklahoma wasn’t one of the participants. But the pageantry and sense of pride was in the air for the Texas Longhorns, who were looking to avenge an embarrassing loss to Notre Dame from last season.
Both coaches were unsure earlier in the week who would start at quarterback, but Texas head coach Charlie Strong and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly decided to start their youngsters, but made it clear that the other QB’s Tyrone Swoopes for Texas and Malik Zaire would see playing time.
The two teams came out set on establishing their game and dictating what they want to do early. Deshone Kizer, who went 8-3 last year as a starter, helped mix run and pass down the field on the Longhorn defense. Most notable was the 54-yard run by Tarean Folston to get the ball into Texas territory, and Kizer was able to show his composure when he found freshman receiver Equanimeous (E.Q.) St. Brown in end zone.
Under new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert (from the Art Briles coaching tree), Texas brought in a new up tempo offense that would establish the run first to open up the pass, and take some pressure off his young true freshman quarterback Shane Buschele. The Longhorns strategy paid off one their first drive; they went 11 plays for 75 yards converting on two third downs, and a fourth and short, was capped by a touchdown pass from Buschele to Armanti Foreman.
It became pretty clear what Texas was going to do with their offense as the game went into the second quarter. Buschele would be the main guy under center, but the Longhorns put in Swoopes for change of pace in short yardage/goal line situations.
The game went back and forth in the second with Swoopes and Buschele scoring on their two goal line situations, and Notre Dame’s freshman receiver E.Q. St. Brown getting another touchdown reception form Kizer. Swoopes’ touchdown gave Texas a 21-14 lead going to the half.
The Longhorns came out with the same confidence that it had at the end of the 1st half when they started the third quarter. John Burt was been able to get behind the Irish defense for most of the first half. Buschele under threw him on an attempt and Swoopes overthrew him for a chance at a touchdown on another attempt. Buschele was finally able to connect with wide out John Burt on a deep ball for a 72-yard touchdown to start the quarter, and on the next drive they were able to get a field goal to establish a 17 point cushion.
There was no quit in the 10th ranked team in the country. A four-play, 61-yard drive that was capped off by a Deshone Kizer 29-yard touchdown run, which only took 95 seconds to bring the Irish within 10 at 31-21. But freshman will do what freshman do, which is make the big mistake. Deep in his own end of the field, Buschele was intercepted by Notre Dame corner Shaun Crawford and it was returned back inside the 10-yard line; that resulted in a touchdown pass from Kizer to Toni Hunter, Jr. who ended leaving that game later due to injury.
Brian Kelly decided at this point there was no need to continue the switch back and forth between the two quarterbacks. Kizer would finish the game 15 of 24 for 215 yards and five passing touchdowns with 77 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, and he brought the Irish back to take the lead. But the difference between this Texas team and the one from last year was this team didn’t stop competing.
With just over five minutes in the fourth, Buschele marched the Longhorn offense down the field in eight plays, and his efforts of poise and resilience was rewarded when running back D’Onta Foreman gashed the Irish defense for a 19 yard touchdown run. This gave the Longhorns the lead back at 37-35, but anything can happen in football. The most unpredictable play happened when the point after try was blocked and Notre Dame corner Shaun Crawford scooped up the ball to return it for two-points for the Irish which tied the game at 37.
Both teams matched each other in the first overtime. The Longhorns got the ball first, because the Irish chose to play defense when they won the coin toss. It took the Longhorns four plays to get into the end zone. The Irish struck quickly with a Kizer pass to C.J. Sanders on a screen play. Since the Texas defense didn’t exert a lot of energy in the first overtime they were able to hold Notre Dame to just a field goal in the second overtime. Sterlin Gilbert decided to stay on the ground and trust his offense to open holes for the running game. D’Onta Foreman for five yards, Buschele for four yards and then the big package with Swoopes in the shotgun formation. Ten- yard run by Swoopes, and on second down, Swoopes danced free of the defense and dive in for the game winning touchdown.