Well, last night was good and bad. It was bad for me, for obvious reasons. It was bad for Brian VanGorder, who looks like he has a lot of work to do. But it was good for Texas, and frankly, college football in general. In the best game of the weekend so far (Ole Miss and Florida State is ticketed to be a good game tonight, so we’ll see), the Irish lost a shootout to a very good Texas team that I underestimated. So here are my takeaways:
- Texas should be punished last night for starting Colt McCoy and putting him in a Shane Buechele jersey. In a shocking move, Charlie Strong went with a true freshman as his starting quarterback for the second time in program history. And what did he do? Oh, just 280 yards and 2 touchdowns. He made big plays all night. He hit guys in stride. His throw to Armanti Foreman in the first quarter? A great throw and an even better catch? On primetime television? Yeah, that’s pretty good. Buechele looks like he’s the quarterback this Texas team desperately needed, and I’m looking forward to watching his progression as a UT sympathizer (not fan). He’s not the only guy that played well under center, though. Tyrone Swoopes has always been a better runner, but they used him perfectly last night. Gaining 53 yards and running for 3 scores was a nice change of pace for the Longhorn attack, which proves to be more dynamic than I gave it credit for.
- Moving from one two quarterback situation to another, it was a tough first half to watch at times. By the end of the game, DeShone Kizer looked like he grabbed the job by the horns and took it. He threw for 215 yards and 5 scores with no picks, on top of gaining 77 yards with his feet and another touchdown. Malik Zaire looked timid, out of rhythm, and unprepared. He completed two passes on five attempts for 23 yards. He gained 0 yards with his feet. Yeah, 0. After the game, however, Brian Kelly was reluctant to name a starter. I’m sorry, you’re torn between the guy who put up 45 points in comparison to the guy who got like 2 first downs? What else do you need to see that Kizer should be your guy?
- The receiving corps looked solid. There’s a clear rapport between Kizer and Equanimeous St. Brown, who led the way with 5 catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns, including one ridiculously-athletic flip over the goal line. CJ Sanders looked fine, and Torii Hunter Jr. looked good until he got killed in the end zone (more on that later). That at least eases my anxiety about them for the rest of year. Also, Tarean Folston and Josh Adams were a good one-two punch. Basically, this offense looks better than I anticipated as long as Kizer is under center. You win most games you score 47 points and gain over 400 total yards…
- … but you also lose most games when you let up 50 points and 517 yards. No answer for Buchele’s throws, as he picked apart the Irish secondary. No answer for D’Onta Foreman. No answer for Swoopes. Isaac Rochell and Nyles Morgan were the only two relevant pieces in last night’s affair. Drue Tranquill can’t finish his tackles. Cole Luke played okay, but I’m still not okay with him as my #1 corner. Nick Coleman couldn’t keep up with anyone. I knew this would be a weakness, but that bad? I’m enthralled, truly. I really am.
- Torii Hunter Jr. has a concussion after getting lit up by DeShon Elliot in the end zone. I’m not even going to make the argument that it’s 6 points taken off the scoreboard for the Irish, as it was a third down play and Justin Yoon’s field goal attempt was subsequently blocked. That is literally the definition of targeting a defenseless receiver. Think I’m being a whiny bitch? Look at the picture below. Is that not putting a shoulder to the head of a receiver who cannot possibly defend himself? If you think that’s within the rulebook, you don’t have eyes or a brain. You’ve never watched football. They missed that call, but more importantly, the Irish can’t lose Hunter Jr. Best wishes to him.
Next week is the home opener against Nevada, which probably explains why Kelly seems like he’ll give Zaire another chance. Thoughts to come on that game later in the week, but I’m expecting a rebound from a tough, disappointing opening loss.
Cover photo from USA today.