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Texas-Notre Dame Game Review: Offensive Postmortem

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NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Good coaches don’t blindly honor tradition and convention. They kick over the altars of false gods. Good coaches would rather be right alone than wrong with the reassuring crowd. They don’t consider their system so precious that only a perfect player can succeed in it. Instead, they evaluate what their athletes can do, soberly appraise what the system requires, and try their best to broker a marriage.

We have an offensive system that’s putting Longhorn athletes into good situations. At every position. That motivates them to play hard and the virtuous circle reinforces itself as success begets confidence and confidence begets success.

That’s how you get 517 yards of offense and 50 points on the board against a ranked team in a season opener with a unit largely comprising underclassmen running plays that would fit on an index card.

Over at Inside Texas, I wrote a piece called When Scheme Discovers Talent that explores this concept and while the Xs and Os of this system are important, they’re a means to the end. Too many coaches forget this. If a system is so inflexible that few players can thrive in it, you leave a lot of talent on the sideline. A good system is like a good economy - it creates work and then the workers grow the system. That’s what Adam Smith taught us when he first wrote about the Veer N Shoot.

This system is serving our players. Many of them athletes that had been previously ignored or discounted.

No more.

QB

We managed to combine the most impressive true freshman QB debut in Longhorn history with the greatest senior redemption in Longhorn history in the same night at the same position in front of the largest crowd in Longhorn history while 12 million people watched on television.

Pretty cool.

Shane Buechele went 16/26 for 280 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception and added 5 carries for 33 yards late when our offense was in Can’t Protect Shane, Win The Game mode. How do you explain his performance? His accuracy and composure under the lights. Is it the player? The system? Athletic lineage?

No.

Shane Buechele is a day walking vampire. He is 432 years old.

The other half of our cop buddy flick, Tyrone Swoopes, battered the Irish defense, left burning pyres in his wake, scored three touchdowns (including the game winner in 2OT), tea bagged a million naysaying keyboards, was featured on Sportscenter, and he fired a giant cannon.

What did you do on Sunday?

I’m not sure 13 carries for 53 yards and 3 touchdowns does justice to his effort, unselfishness and willpower. Tell your children the story of Swoopes.

RB

D’onta Foreman used to be a big athlete who ran fast for his size. The running back we saw Sunday was a nuanced NFL talent. 24 carries for 131 yards at 5.5 per carry is particularly impressive when you consider that his longest run was 19 yards. Consistent gains, great run maximization.

He was decisive to the hole, showed excellent balance (see the Cedric Benson stabilizing hand run), made good reads off of Shackleford’s set blocks (more on this later) and he even blocked well (check his cut block on Swoopes’ game winner). His conditioning is also absolutely on point.

Chris Warren ran with power once he got moving, but he’s a slow starter from a shotgun set stop and he’s carrying over 250 pounds with a high base. Physics are cruel. He may have more value in more traditional run sets on the move or if he can address his speed-to-hole.

We missed the injured Kirk Johnson. Hopefully Kyle Porter will extricate himself from the special teams doghouse. The coaches were using that as a readiness-for-action test. Porter flunked it.

WR

It’s Spring.

Sterlin Gilbert is watching the veteran Longhorn wide receivers.

Word is they’re not good enough. Talented freshmen will have to play early. He swallows his chew juice, because pussies spit, admires his Dockers deep pleats and rattles off in five minutes what other coaches missed for four years.

“Oliver, you’re a big physical smart kid with flypaper hands. Coaches cast you as an outside receiver because you’re big, and then resented you for not having deep speed. You’re a slot receiver. You’re going to post up little guys on slants and eat their lunch. Lose 20 pounds and get your feet back.”

Jake Oliver - 3 catches, 36 yards. Two third down conversions on scoring drives.

“Jacorey, you’re quick. Great stop-start and you can move laterally. We’ll work with that. We’re going to throw the ball to you in short space. Catch it, turn, run upfield.”

Jacorey Warrick - 2 catches, 35 yards. 20 yard catch and run in 1OT to set up Swoopes touchdown run.

“Armanti, you’re bull strong and a CB can’t hip check you off routes. You don’t look like an outside receiver because you’re under 6 feet and thick. Doesn’t matter. Get a step, hold your line, and Shane will get it there.”

Armanti Foreman - 3 catches, 25 yards. Beautiful 19 yard touchdown catch on opening drive.

“Coach Strong, I’m ready for #13 when he is. Quick twitch in a 6-2 frame? Slam dunk.”

Jerrod Heard - 2 catches, 73 yards. 68 yard catch on a go route.

“Burt, you had 28 catches last year? You’ll have that by mid October in this offense. You’re our bell cow and you’ll open up the field for everyone. Drop a ball? We’ll throw you another.”

John Burt - 6 catches, 111 yards. 72 yard touchdown catch.

“Freshmen, we’ll work you in when you’re ready. We ain’t gonna whip a colt out of the gate.”

“We’ll be fine here, Coach Strong.”

OL/TE

The Texas OL didn’t surrender a sack and won enough battles in the running game to amass 263 yards rushing. Longest run from scrimmage? 19 yards. Texas lost 26 yards on 3 errant snaps to drop the official total to 237. This group battled through injuries, made a physical Irish front tap out in OT, and delivered the most spirited Texas OL performance we’ve seen in a long time. Led by sophomores and freshmen.

Freshman center Zach Shackleford was a major concern for Texas going into the contest and though he had some rough patches (three errant snaps late that killed Texas drives, gave up a pressure that led to interception and another tackle for loss) that will improve over time and he had a large number of quality snaps. Zach has a gift for baiting penetration, almost like a pass set, but then he quickly turns and screens so the defender’s choice is wrong. OL judo. Then he anchors down and lets the RB cut off of him. The RB better be able to make that read quickly and he and D’onta Foreman were on the same page all game. Chris Warren, less so.

Connor Williams was dominant in all phases, except for an extra point. Patrick Vahe was a force on pulls. He’s great on the move. Tough penalty on the backside chop block, but refs call it. Perkins was in and out with injuries, Nickelson went down and guys like Rodriquez, Hodges and Anderson really stepped up.

Our 6th OL, Caleb Bluiett, did a really nice job setting the edge. Andrew Beck was our motion H-back and he had some effective blocks, but needs to work on his consistency. Gutted through an ankle injury as well.

Conclusion

Our athletes have an offense they believe in and a staff that believes in them.