A suggestion for Texas’ coaching staff when they get back to the office Monday morning: update the depth chart. No more ‘OR’ at quarterback. It doesn’t really do this situation justice.
The offseason competition between an exciting freshman and an experienced senior ended in a resolution that made everyone in Austin happy: Buechele got the start, Swoopes got the win and Texas got a 50-47 double-overtime upset of No. 10 Notre Dame.
Charlie Strong has a starter and a future star in Buechele to lead the program going forward. The rookie threw for 280 yards, rushed for 33 more and accounted for three touchdowns. As has been the case for Buechele since he joined the team in January, he did not look like a freshman.
But Texas coaches still sent in Swoopes for the fourth drive of the night, and kept giving him chances throughout to make an impact. His final stat line — 13 carries, 53 yards — doesn’t quite capture the damage he did.
When Texas went to overtime and the pressure kept increasing, first-year offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert trusted both to step up in the moment. Buechele hit a 20-yard pass to Jacorey Warrick to start it off. Swoopes subbed in two plays later and punched in the 3-yard run.
So why change the plan in the next OT? Buechele went in and Texas moved the ball 9 yards. Swoopes went in brought the pain, dropping his shoulder and taking out two Irish defenders before colliding with three more for a 10-yard gain on third-and-1.
Swoopes ran with increasing confidence when put in these “18 Wheeler” power package situations last season. He ran with violence Sunday night.
The quarterback Texas fans had given up on a year ago, the one they might’ve booed had he started and struggled against Notre Dame, finished the night with a dive into the end zone and then underneath a dogpile of teammates, with fireworks and cannons blasting in the background.
Swoopes said it was not quite as glorious as it sounds.
“I got caught kinda funny — my shoulders were on each other — when they all fell on me,” Swoopes said with a laugh. “I thought I was going to die for real.”
That both quarterbacks were going to play in this game was no secret. Strong had promised that a long time ago. What Notre Dame and the 102,315 folks in attendance couldn’t have guessed was just how well Texas could execute using both.
Gilbert did not reveal much about his plan last week, but he was adamant that Texas won’t be running a two-quarterback system. Sure, different coaches have different definitions of such an arrangement. But what Texas had Sunday night, when things were going good and when they weren’t, was two quarterbacks comfortable with being subbed in and out whenever needed.
How did Gilbert, in his very first game with these passers and this program, determine how to use each one?
“Everything is about winning,” Gilbert said. “What do we need right now? Whatever situation it was, as a coaching staff, that’s what we decided. Those are two unselfish kids and, at the end of the day, all they want to do is win.”
Strong finally revealed the plan to start Buechele by calling his mom on Saturday night, which brought her to tears. But Strong wanted to make sure Swoopes wasn’t upset, too. He made sure to walk into the stadium with Swoopes on Sunday afternoon and deliver a message before they reached the locker room.
” ‘I don’t want you to be upset the young guy’s in there,’ ” Strong said he told Swoopes. ” ‘You’re going to have your chance. You’re going to have the opportunity. You’re a special person to handle this situation the way you’re handling it.’ “
Buechele didn’t pout either, when Swoopes stepped in and put the Horns on his back. Because no matter what you call this two-quarterback plan, it made both of them better.
“It was just really exciting to go one-two, one-two,” Buechele said, “and being able to win the game was awesome.”