Apologies for the delay, folks - shots were attempted from The Hip and The Stands before The Battery had other ideas. A few more shots were fired from The Parking Garage upon application of The Charging Cable, basic safety concerns precluded more shots from The Drive Up I-35 and we're finally emptying the magazine from The Couch. A hungover trip to The Apple Store will take place bright and early to put an end to this kind of fiasco during home games, and it's a sequence of events that would normally have produced The Black Cloud of Rage.
But somehow, I'm still in a pretty good mood.
The Swoo'chele Offense - WHAT IT DO?
For starters it starts out in the 'Chele configuration, putting to rest absurd claims that Charlie was going to overrule Sterlin Gilbert's choice of quarterback or throttle down his breakneck pace within the first minute of possession - during which we ran about five plays. D'Onta Foreman bounced outside, John Burt worked the hitches underneath and the Domers found themselves with no time to deliver Brian VanGorder's signature chaos. Instead it was Buechele delivering what figures to be his signature throw, the sideline fade 30-45 yards past the LOS, with Money Foreman cashing in courtesy of a picturesque toe drag to put Texas up 7-0.
A second Buechele signature turned into a stone drop by Burt after a false start, but it was encouraging to see that neither Burt's ability to walk away from coverage nor Buechele's propensity to drop sideline balls on the dot were Spring Game mirages. You kinda got the feeling that they'd get to do it again at some point.
As ND jammed up the interior run game it looked like Texas would have to bounce everything out to have success...until they bounced to the Swoo and started banging heads. The Semi/Short Bed 18-Wheeler with two receivers split out chewed up yards after Texas started a drive inside their own 15. The Irish D couldn't key on the first motion from the back, the two receivers effectively blocked three dudes as two underneath cover men and a safety aligned over them and Swoopes showed his old power and some increased quicks as he decisively powered through the Notre Dame defense. The Short Bed could become truly deadly if it can also feature the long ball, but the signature Tyrone Swoopes Too Long Ball made an appearance before Buechele returned and the Jake Oliver Show commenced. Oliver hit the Truck Stick after a quick hitch to go for 21 and get Texas into the red zone, then took a slant within a yard of paydirt before Buechele cashed in his +1500 odds on "first QB in the game to have a rushing touchdown."
Boo almost had himself another one as he took a page out of Swoopes' putative Swoo'chele playbook, launching a textbook Slot Shot to Jerrod Heard up the seam that saw #13 go down mere inches from giving #7 his second TD toss of the night. #18 ended up cashing in from the one, but just after the half Buechele got his second on a second-chance sideline throw to Burt that went for a 72-yard score (though the catch itself was a tad too close for comfort.)
Another field goal drive had the Longhorns feeling good up seventeen, but then the game itself quickly became too close for comfort. Buechele missed high on a slant to Burt and the ball skipped through his hands and into the mitts of Irish mighty mite Shaun Crawford, whose return teed up an Irish TD. Another high throw from Boo on a curl route helped to snuff another drive, and a combination of stuffed runs and muffed snaps derailed the offense until the Domers had taken a 35-31 lead.
When it came to crunch time, though, Buechele and the Longhorns found answers on three of the next four drives to seal the game. Precision short passing and some tremendously tough running from D'Onta Foreman put Texas up 37-35 (which swiftly became 37-37...ugh), and a pair clutch short-field scores in OT made Bevo XV 1-0 and handed Charlie Strong his first signature win of 2016. A Buechele dart and some sweet second effort from Jacorey Warrick set up the first Tyrone Swoopes overtime TD, while the second came courtesy of Swoopes' own second effort when he changed course, bounced through a hole and dove into the end zone for the sweetest TD of his life. Shane's your unquestioned trigger man for the regular version of the 5333, but as DKR went wild the sign on Godzillatron said it all.
Swoopes, there it is.
You always want to start off with a senior making a great play, as we did with Sheroid Evans breaking up DeShone Kizer's first throw up the sideline. You never want to follow that by justifying a Kurt Bohls press conference question on tackling, but that's exactly what happened when ALPUBMBOGFMVITSEZDSNR* blew a tackle to spring a 50+ yard run for Tarean Folston. The Irish OL got some easy push up the middle to keep pushing the ball, and Davantae Davis fell victim to a subtle veteran-caliber pushoff from stud soph receiver Equanimeous St. Brown as the Irish took an early lead.
It wasn't the only time that Davis would be vicitimized on the evening, as he looked to blow his deep third responsibility in handing St. Brown his second TD of the night on an easy throw up the seam. It looked like Davis also came off his man in the end zone - in man coverage, no less - on a Kizer scramble to serve up a third touchdown toss. Kizer made the easy throws, the hard throws and a lot of the throws in between en route to a 5-TD night (he added one on the ground to boot) that might have sparked some early Heisman conversation had the Irish come out on the right side of the scoreboard. It was kind of shocking after the game to realize that he had only gone 15/24 for just over 200 yards through the air, though a good portion of his overall torment was delivered on the ground. While he won't enjoy the season-long stat jacks that guys like Baker Mayfield and Pat Mahomes will put up, when you factor his legs and pro-throw downfield accuracy into the mix it's possible that the Longhorns have already faced the best all-around QB that they'll see all season.
It'll be extremely good news if Kizer IS the best QB we see this season, since Vance Bedford's secondary got all it could handle and then some. We saw a few frustrating coverage busts and a dire open-field tackle attempt from Kevin Vaccaro on Kizer's TD scamper, and there was consistent room for (admittedly hard and laser-accurate) deep slant/dig throws that will murder a Cover Three unless you've got more heady and aggressive play from the center field safety than Texas got tonight. If you're hoping that the Longhorn youth movement sees another addition next week in heavy snaps for Brandon Jones..you're not alone.
Most of the good news at safety came courtesy of sophomore DeShon Elliott. He was last seen shadowboxing against Baylor, but The Kraken threw some heavy hands tonight as a blitzer and delivered a punishing (and coin-flip legal) blow on Torii Hunter Jr. to dislodge a potential sixth TD toss from Kizer and probably save the game.
Holton Hill looked to play a solid game, while Sheroid Evans got plenty of run outside and looked to have a pretty clean sheet outside of a deep slant where he needed more safety help than he got. Assuming Swoopes' prior contributions render him Gaskamp-ineligible, Evans is your runaway leader in the clubhouse after Week One.
The front seven (six?) fared better in this one, especially when adjusting for context against Notre Dame's elite front five. There were moments of frustratingly easy push up the middle, but outside of Folston's long run the Longhorns held the Irish backs to 77 yards on 28 additional carries. Paul Boyette had some Poona-style penetration to stop a couple of runs in the backfield, and sophomore DT Chris Nelson was consistently tough to overwhelm on the interior. Jordan Elliott had a couple of nice moments - including serving as a stand-up rusher in one of Strong's patented Psycho looks - and I'm looking forward to a re-watch to see more from Malcolm Roach on the edge. While Charles Omenihu made a few plays in the run game, the Longhorns' best edge defender looked to be Naashon Hughes - though he moved around enough to give more of a true Fox look than I expected to see this season. He made plays rushing the passer, setting the edge and got a key deflection while dropping back into coverage.
Of course for true versatility, no one topped #46. Malik wore a bunch of hats tonight, from aligning as a traditional Mike to coming off the edge to looping in on blitzes to spying Kizer to splitting out on the slot in Dirty Dime/Nickel looks and allowing the box defenders to squeeze the interior and count on him to fly in for any C-gap cleanup. While Jefferson didn't have a perfect game - he patty-caked the guard a couple too many times on interior blitzes and missed a couple of tackles - his athleticism was jaw-dropping and he accounted for plenty of disruption. Anthony Wheeler also played a good game and turned in some strong moments against the run, despite getting victimized on (ironically) a wheel route TD thanks to another note-perfect throw from Kizer.
Despite a tough statline, there were plenty of encouraging moments for the defense when you factor in the caliber of the competition. It was unnerving to see how little pressure Texas managed without some form of blitz and disguise, but considering the substantial youth up front we could certainly see one or two guys emerge as plus one-on-one pass rushers before the weather gets too cold. If that comes to pass and the beefy young DT class starts chipping in on A-gap runs then this defense could look pretty salty down the stretch.
Let's dispense with the chronological approach here and skip ahead to the moment that almost knocked a few years off of Longhorn fans' lifespans - the botched extra point that turned what would have been a 38-35 lead with under four minutes to play into an excruciating 37-37 tie. After D'Onta Foreman powered in for a go-ahead TD, some member of the Longhorn extra point squad was extremely late remembering that he was, in fact, supposed to be on the field. He sprinted on late and the unit was discombobulated - rather than (ideally) taking the delay penalty and kicking a 25-yard XP or (reasonably) burning a timeout, Texas (horrifyingly) rushed the kick and got it blocked and returned by Shaun Crawford for the tying score. There's no excuse for guys on the extra point unit not to remember that they're supposed to be on the field for extra points, and there's even less excuse for the coaching staff not taking charge of the situation and preventing the squad from compounding its error with a rushed kick when the alternative was...a 25-yard extra point.
The extra point fiasco was the worst of the Longhorns' second-half specialty gaffes, but it wasn't alone - short kickoffs, dubious breakdowns on punt coverage and personal fouls all served to hinder the offense and kneecap the D as Notre Dame mounted their comeback. It wasn't ALL bad - Naashon Hughes got his hand on a field goal attempt while Michael Dickson delivered the Thunder from Down Under on a series of booming punts - but everyone who was looking for ST's to be a net plus for this year's Longhorn squad will have to look ahead to at least next week before the unit gets itself back in the black.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This one was a thrill a minute, and packed a few more thrills in the second half than most of the Longhorn faithful were hoping for. The various warts and foibles shouldn't obscure the key message, though. A frosh- and sophomore-laden Longhorn squad just knocked off a Top Ten opponent in front of a national televsion audience - and a bushel basketful of top recruits enjoying the show in DKR. A true freshman QB shook off a couple of bad throws to deliver a sensational all-around showing, and his senior counterpart delivered on a fantastic redemption story while ensuring that future opponents will have a multi-faceted headache in game prep. And Charlie Strong earned a signature win and a significant tailwind in his efforts to take Texas where he promised that we'd go. Even if the momentum from this win doesn't turn into an ahead-of-schedule Big XII title this season, sustaining a good percentage of it should tee Texas up for Errrbody 2.0 come February 2017.
The 2017 season still looks like the time that all the pieces will fall into place for a run at some hardware - but tonight was a great reminder that you shouldn't spend too much time pondering the future when you can have this much fun in the present.
*A Longhorn Player Unidentifiable By Me Because Our Giant Fucking Marketing Vector In The South End Zone Doesn't Show "Negative" Replays