If you didn’t watch the Texas Longhorns beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sunday night, you were one of the few, as the game attracted more viewers than any college football game on opening weekend ever.
When Tyrone Swoopes lunged forward to win the game in double overtime, viewers heard the commentator say “TEXAS. IS. BACK!”
Fans wearing burnt orange glasses liked what they saw and will agree wholeheartedly. The reality is there’s still a lot of football to be played before Texas can even be considered a contender for the College Football Playoff, or even the Big 12 Championship, for that matter.
This game against Notre Dame proved how bad the last few Longhorns teams have been. Last year, when Texas went down 7-0 against the Irish, the game was virtually over. They had no confidence in their offense to come back from any deficit, and it was evident by the body language on the field and the sideline.
Enter Shane Buechele. The true freshman showed he has ice water in his veins on the first drive, placing a perfectly thrown football to Armanti Foreman in the corner of the end zone, where only his guy could catch it. It’s been about six years since Longhorns fans have seen anything like it.
Buechele wasn’t asked to do much in his first start, but offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert made it clear he isn’t going to be afraid to turn him loose. He completed two passes of 60+ yards on Sunday night, which matches the total from the entire 2015 season. That alone should give Texas fans hope for the year, but it doesn’t mean they’re back.
When Texas blew a 17-point lead, the game would have been over last year. When the extra point got blocked to turn a potential three-point lead into a tie game, the energy in the stadium and on the sidelines would have completely deflated. But not this time.
So who deserves the most credit? Gilbert, Buechele and running back D’onta Foreman all deserve game balls, in my opinion. But how about the play from Tyrone Swoopes?
You want to talk about a selfless kid that will swallow any amount of pride for the benefit of his team? Just look at the 18-wheeler himself. His performance was a thing of beauty as he punished any defender who got in his path. He wanted this game badly, and he picked his team up when it needed him the most.
Now, with everything good that happened on Sunday, let’s talk about why Texas isn’t back just yet.
Simply put, this program hasn’t played with a target on it’s back in a half decade. Teams haven’t been taking them seriously over the last couple years, which is why you see them upset teams like Baylor and Oklahoma last year.
I have no doubt that Notre Dame was ready for Texas, which is why the victory is even more impressive. The Longhorns have a tough schedule over the next month, though. We don’t know how good Buechele will be now that teams have some film on him.
Jerrod Heard was declared the next great Texas quarterback last September, but he was virtually ineffective at times when he faced a quality defense because they had film to study his tendencies. Now he’s part of a talented receiving group that Buechele has to work with. I have more confidence in Buechele because of his accuracy and overall demeanor, as well as Gilbert and the offensive coaching staff, but they all still have a challenging road ahead of them.
Big 12 defenses may not be the best in the country, but they know how to slow down the offense that Texas runs. Let’s not forget that this is a young Longhorns team, no matter how talented they may be. The attitude and overall confidence displayed against Notre Dame is different from what we’ve seen in at least the last six years from the team wearing burnt orange.
That gives me hope that Texas is on the right track, getting back to relevance but one victory doesn’t prove it. It’s easy to get up for a nationally televised game against a top-ten opponent, but what about the other 11 games?
Everyone will be talking about how great Texas is because of its huge upset over the Irish. How the players respond to those discussions will be telling when it comes to how good they can be. If they buy into the talk about how great they are, they will lose four or five games this year. But if they play with the same edge and attitude they had against Notre Dame for the rest of the season, then they could prove that they definitely are on the way back.
Don’t buy into the hype just yet, but there’s definitely something special brewing in Austin. Hopefully it wasn’t just the luck against the Irish.
E-mail Chase at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @chaseholik88.
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