Texas football coach Charlie Strong, who rode triumphantly on the shoulders of players after Sunday’s 50-47 upset of No. 10 Notre Dame in double-overtime, has been in that placed in that position before after victories in Austin.
But this time, Strong is counting on his young team having the confidence to build on that season-opening triumph rather than reverting to inconsistent efforts the team has shown while posting records of 6-7 and 5-7 during the coach’s first two seasons at the school.
“This game, it does so much for the confidence,” Strong said during Monday’s teleconference with Big 12 football coaches. “When you have a young team, it’s all about confidence. And you just want to make sure it builds and we don’t allow them to get full of themselves. But it was something that hadn’t happened here in two years. Last year, we probably would have lost this game. But it was just so good, we’re up 17 and then we go down by four, to just watch our guys continue to battle.”
The Longhorns’ ability to erase a 35-31 deficit in the fourth quarter produced a dramatic triumph to begin a pivotal season for Strong, who selected freshman quarterback Shane Buechele, an Arlington Lamar graduate, as his starter for the contest.
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Buechele, the first incoming freshman quarterback to start for the Longhorns since Bobby Layne in 1944, completed 16-of-26 passes for 280 yards and two TDs. He also rushed for 33 yards (6.6 per carry) and one score while handling a two-quarterback system that also featured senior Tyrone Swoopes at the helm in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Swoopes finished with 13 carries for 53 yards and three TDs.
Strong said he spent a sleepless night because he was so inspired by the emotional triumph, as well as the need to prepare for Saturday’s game in Austin against UTEP (1-0). He also believes his team sent a message to the college football world by holding off the Irish.
“I look at last night and it’s almost like two heavyweight champions … just slugging it out,” Strong said. “It came down to who was going to be able to stand there for another round. They kicked the field goal (in the second overtime) and then, all of a sudden, we get the touchdown.”
And the victory, which provided a much-needed jolt of confidence for players and coaches.
“It’s always good as a coach and for your coaching staff to know that, if we prepare them the right way and put them in position to be successful, you feel like you have the guys in place where you can get that done,” Strong said. “Our defense has so much confidence in our offense now because they know we can take the ball and go score. And our offense knows that if our defense gets the stop for them, they can go score. So you’re set both ways now. Each group is praising one another. Each group has confidence in one another in all phases of the game.”