A 'Moral Victory' Possible if UT loses to ND?

Question: If you're Charlie Strong and the Longhorns, would you be satisfied with anything other than a victory at Notre Dame to begin the 2015 season? Or would a competitive, hard-fought loss bring you any solace?


Annabel Stephan’s Take

Nothing will top a win (obviously) and I don't think you'll ever hear a coach say he's satisfied with anything less.

That being said, however, I think there are a couple of things to watch for that could bring good momentum into the rest of the season: if offensive play, specifically quarterback play, is noticeably improved, I believe it will really build confidence within Tyrone Swoopes, Jerrod Heard, or both, and that attitude will trickle it's way around the offense. I also think we need to see improved effort on the field throughout all four quarters on both sides of the ball. There are a lot of questions on the field right now, including offensive line, secondary, and of course, quarterbacks, so I think improved play in all of those areas would lessen the blow of a loss.

But again, nothing is better than a win to set your season off on the right course, especially since you know that the college football world will have all eyes on South Bend in week one.





Gabe Brooks’ Take

I don't think a season-opener is an all-or-nothing proposition, especially given that it's the first game of Year 2.

A win would be a bigger positive than a loss would be negative. That's not to say that you settle for a "hard-fought" loss; you're never satisfied with a loss if you're a big-boy program. Texas is obviously a big-boy program.

But the outcome of the season-opener against Notre Dame is not gonna be a season-determiner, for lack of a better term, whether it's a win or a loss. What happens in that game should be taken at face value, just as any single game should. Trends develop during the course of several games and seasons as a whole, not the first game on the schedule.

So, no, it's not an all-or-nothing situation.





William Wilkerson’s Take

I won’t soon forget how pissed off Charlie Strong was after the Longhorns got blown out by Arkansas to end last season.

At one point he said, sternly: “At some point we have to get the pride back into this program. Texas has to mean something. Right now it doesn’t mean much.”

I know there is a great chance that Texas could start a redshirt freshman at QB in this game – or at least see some playing time at some point – and I know UT’s defense could be relying heavily on several true freshmen for key contributions, but I don’t think Strong and the team would be satisfied with anything but a victory.

At this point, with TCU and Baylor cleaning up on the recruiting trail (and A&M, and Houston to a degree), I think moral victories are long gone, Jerrod Heard starting at QB (playing a ton in South Bend) or not. Winning cures all. Close defeats do not.

Do I think it would be the beginning of the end of a dismal 2015 campaign if UT was to lose to a very talented (Top 10 team for sure) ND team? Absolutely not.

In fact, while tough, I think things set up fairly nicely for UT if it can come out of the TCU-OU back-to-back at least 1-1.

If Texas gets to that point having won the home games before that, including against two teams on the rise in Cal (holy offense) and Oklahoma State (QB Mason Rudolph is the truth; DE Emmanuel Ogbah is borderline unstoppable), UT could be in line for a fantastic season.

We’ll see. But there will be a terrible taste in Texas’ mouth if it loses at ND. That would be a defining victory for Strong in his young tenure on the 40 Acres.





Chip Brown’s Take

To be able to answer this question, you have to size up both Notre Dame and Texas - starting with the QB position.

I'm a huge Malik Zaire fan, based on a tiny sample size.

The junior QB (6-0, 223) replaced Everett Golson - already down 35-0 late in the second quarter - in a 49-14 loss at USC. Zaire went 9 of 20 passing for 170 yards with 6 carries for 18 yards and an 11-yard TD run.

It was a different story in Zaire's first start vs LSU in the Music City Bowl, when he went 12 of 15 passing for 96 yards and a TD with 22 carries for 96 yards and a 7-yard TD run.

If there's anything you don't want to see when you're replacing defensive starters such as DT Malcom Brown, DE Ced Reed, LBs Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond and CB Quandre Diggs - it's a running QB.

And Zaire will be playing with a veteran offensive line, a 1,000-yard WR in junior Will Fuller (76 catches for 1,094 yards and school-record tying 15 TDs) as well as junior RB Tarean Folston (889 yards, 5.1 ypc, 6 TDs) who doubles as a capable receiver (18 catches, 190 yards, 1 TD).

Longhorns' fans will also be reunited with former Texas commit TE Durham Smythe, who is being projected as the next big thing in ND's recent TE lineage.

The Notre Dame defense last year was almost as erratic as the Texas offense.

Almost.

The Irish gave up an average of 12 points to their first five opponents and an average of 39.8 ppg against their last eight foes.

If the Longhorns' offense can discover an identity more quickly than Notre Dame's defense, and the Texas D can contain and pressure Zaire - keeping him from killing UT on the ground - Charlie Strong's team has a chance for a signature win.

An upset is not out of the question.

But everyone is expecting Texas to fall short in South Bend. So a hard-fought loss won't be the end of the world. There will be confidence to be gained if UT's offense can score 17 points or more, and the Longhorns' defense doesn't give up more than 21-24 points.

No one wants to hear that. But it's the truth.

As the season progresses, and UT's young players start to grow up, the tolerance for a loss in big games like this will become less and less.




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