Longhorns fall to Fighting Irish, 38-3

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Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard and the Longhorns were left wondering what happened after a 38-3 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday. The Texas offense struggled with only 163 yards of offense.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Charlie Strong didn’t talk to his staff on Sunday ­— he never does after a game — but why would he, after the Longhorns struggled at all facets of the game against Notre Dame?

Texas entered its game in South Bend, Indiana, with hopes of its new up-tempo, spread offense solving its problems. But after the Fighting Irish dismantled the Longhorns 38-3, the Texas offense only generated 163 yards.

“I was hoping I’d see a big difference myself,” Strong said. “But when you talk about up-tempo, it’s about just moving the football. … We all want to see touchdowns, and that’s what we’re not producing, because you look at some offenses, they score so many points, and we have the playmakers. Now Charlie Strong didn’t talk to his staff on Sunday ­— he never does after a game — but why would he, after the Longhorns struggled at all facets of the game against Notre Dame?

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Texas entered its game in South Bend, Indiana, with hopes of its new up-tempo, spread offense solving its problems. But after the Fighting Irish dismantled the Longhorns 38-3, the Texas offense only generated 163 yards.

“I was hoping I’d see a big difference myself,” Strong said. “But when you talk about up-tempo, it’s about just moving the football. … We all want to see touchdowns, and that’s what we’re not producing, because you look at some offenses, they score so many points, and we have the playmakers. Now let’s go score.”

In its blowout loss, Texas failed to get the ball into the hands of one of its key playmakers — senior running back Johnathan Gray. Strong said one of the keys to beating Notre Dame was to run the ball, but Gray only recorded eight carries for 40 yards. The senior from Aledo, Texas, received his first handoff on the Longhorns’ third drive of the game. By then, they trailed 14-0.

While Gray kept his feelings close to his vest after the game, he was visibly frustrated about the lack of touches against the Fighting Irish.  

“I felt like Coach Watson had a game plan that we had to stick by,” Gray said Saturday night. “He does a great job as a group. As a team, we got to execute whatever plays he calls.”

Alongside the lack of a run game, the Longhorns’ quarterbacks didn’t produce. Texas experimented with playing both junior Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, but it ultimately decided to go with Swoopes. He managed to throw for just 93 yards and gain 36 yards by scrambling during broken plays.

Swoopes’ performance has reopened the quarterback battle. While Swoopes is listed as the starter, Strong said both quarterbacks will be evaluated for the starting role against Rice. Although his starting job isn’t secured, Swoopes said he isn’t fazed.

“I don’t have a problem competing every week,” Swoopes said. “I’ve been competing against everybody, so I feel like I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve just got to go out and practice every week, just keep doing what I’ve been doing, stay positive and keep everybody else positive.”

But the offensive line didn’t help the quarterbacks against Notre Dame. The offensive line was touted as better, stronger and smarter entering the game. Its performance in South Bend proved otherwise. Notre Dame racked up four sacks and eight quarterback hurries against an offensive line featuring two true freshmen.

Maybe the stage was too big for a young offense. Maybe the gaze of Touchdown Jesus was too strong to overcome. Whatever caused Texas’ struggles Saturday, Strong didn’t have to talk to his staff about them. The 38-3 performance spoke for itself.  

“I don’t say much to my staff, because I don’t want them to know how I feel right then,” Strong said. “I may say some things that I’ll probably regret later. But there wasn’t much to say. They know how I felt. They know how I felt after that game, and they know how I felt during the game. There wasn’t much I had to say to them.”