Austin, TX– The Notre Dame Fighting Irish opened their season against the Texas Longhorns for the second season in a row on Sunday night, this time in enemy territory. In a thrilling game from start to finish, the Longhorns won in double overtime 50-47.
The two-quarterback system was the talk going into the game for the Irish, with Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer sharing reps all spring and summer long. But it was Kizer who showed that he was the deserving starter, torching the Texas defense for most of the night.
Kizer threw a touchdown pass to Equanimeous St. Brown on the game’s opening drive. He alternated possessions with Zaire throughout the first half, but most of the offensive production came when Kizer was taking the snaps, which included a second touchdown to St. Brown to tie the game at 14.
Texas was using a two-quarterback system as well in the first half, with Shane Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes both being effective against the Irish defense. Despite Kizer’s great play, Notre Dame found themselves down 21-14 at the half.
The Longhorns continued to take control of the game early in the second half when Buechele completed a deep touchdown pass to John Burt to go up 28-14. They scored a field goal on the following drive to make the Irish deficit 17 points.
For the Irish to make a comeback, it was clear that Kizer would be the man coach Brian Kelly would go to for the remainder of the game. Kizer scored on a 29-yard TD with 7:39 left in the third quarter, and the comeback was on.
On the next possession, Shaun Crawford intercepted Buechele to give the Irish the ball deep in Texas territory. Torii Hunter Jr. scored on the drive to make the score 31-28 Longhorns.
As the Irish were driving to tie or take the lead on the next drive, Hunter was injured in the end zone in what looked to be a blow to the head. He never returned to the game and the Irish field goal attempt to tie was blocked.
The end of the game was a complete whirlwind, with Kizer completing a TD pass to running back Josh Adams to give the Irish their first lead since the first quarter at 35-31. Longhorn RB D’Onta Foreman answered with a score of his own with 3:29 left, but the extra point was blocked and returned by Crawford to the house to tie the score at 37.
In overtime, both teams scored touchdowns with ease until the second OT, when the Irish were held to a field goal. With a defining win within their grasps, the Longhorns turned to Swoopes once again for their game winning touchdown. Swoopes was up to the task, diving into the endzone to end the game.
Although the loss was a tough blow to start the season, Kizer shined with 215 passing yards and 5 touchdowns, as well as a touchdown on the ground. Defensively, Crawford had 2 game changing plays with an interception and the thrilling extra point return.
It is really too early to judge how much this loss hurts the Irish playoff chances. Texas is a much improved team this year and could be ranked before long. Furthermore, many top teams have lost already in what promises to be a wild college football season.
The Irish must now turn their focus to next week, when they face the Nevada Wolf Pack at Notre Dame Stadium at 3:30 p.m.