Texas beats No. 10 Notre Dame 50-47 in 2OT thriller
After two losing seasons and with the pressure of an entire program bearing down, Charlie Strong turned his team over to a freshman quarterback for Texas' opener, something no Longhorns coach had done in more than 70 years.
He even called Shane Buechele's mom the night before to say her son would start against No. 10 Notre Dame. She started crying.
"I told him don't let her down," Strong said.
Buechele didn't, and instead delivered big time with 280 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns before Tyrone Swoopes, the senior he beat out for the job, punched in a lunging 6-yard touchdown in the second overtime for a thrilling 50-47 win Sunday night.
"I said a year ago we probably would have lost that football game because we didn't know how to finish," Strong said.
Buechele was the first freshman quarterback to start a season-opener at Texas since Bobby Layne in 1944.
"You knew (Buechele) could handle it. You knew the stage wouldn't be too big," Strong said.
Yet it was Swoopes who won it in the end. Disappointed not to start, Swoopes still played a huge role in the offense with three touchdowns and big runs that punished Notre Dame tacklers who struggled to bring him down.
On the winning score, Swoopes broke a tackle, burst up the middle and stretched the ball across the line. Swoopes has been booed by Texas fans the last two seasons and was treated to a chorus of "Swooooooopes" from the Texas-record crowd of 102,315.
"With that chant and booing, I can't really tell the difference," Swoopes said.
Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer rallied the Irish from a 31-14 deficit in the third quarter and finished with 215 yards passing and five touchdowns.
Texas went ahead 37-35 on D'Onte Foreman's 18-yard touchdown run before Notre Dame blocked the extra point and Shaun Crawford returned it for a 2-point score that tied it at 37 with just under four minutes left.
Strong, and Longhorn fans, had seen Texas collapse and lose games late the previous two seasons.
"This is a great start for us," Strong said. "Our fans really needed that. We've been down for so long. ... It was a night for us to just make it right."
Notre Dame: Coach Brian Kelly will have to consider scrapping the quarterback rotation between Kizer and Malik Zairethat sapped momentum and helped dig the Irish into a big hole.
"No final decision has been made," Kelly said. "It's never easy playing two quarterbacks."
Texas: A huge win for Strong, who is trying to avoid being the first Texas coach with three consecutive losing seasons since the 1930s. It's been said time and again in recent years, but the Longhorns sure look as if they've got their quarterback, despite some sputters in the second half.
"We needed tonight to get this program back in the spotlight," Strong said. "I know one game does not make a season. We have many more to go. But it's a great start."
Notre Dame: A loss means a drop, but how far? The Irish sure didn't look like a top-10 team when the Longhorns were pushing them around early.
Texas: Texas hasn't been ranked since late 2013 when Mack Brown was coach. Beating a top-10 opponent with big plays, tough running and late moxie probably earns a return to the Top 25.
Swoopes ran the "18-wheeler" package - so-named because he wears No. 18 - to near perfection, moving the chains and punishing Notre Dame tacklers in the process. He finished with 53 yards on 13 carries and was a dynamic change of pace when he came on for Buechele.
"He's 260 pounds and runs big," said Notre Dame defensive lineman Isaac Rochell.
Notre Dame: Wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. was knocked out of the game in the third quarter on a ferocious hit fromDeShon Elliott in the end zone that broke up an Irish touchdown.
Kelly said he had "heated" discussions with game officials asking why the play wasn't reviewed for a possible penalty.
TEXAS: Safety Dylan Haines left the game in the second quarter with a head injury.
Notre Dame: The Irish play their home opener against Nevada on Saturday. The Wolf Pack beat Cal-Poly 30-27 in overtime in their first game.
Texas: Texas hosts Texas-El Paso, which beat New Mexico State 38-22.