"This was huge," Texas athletic director Mike Perrin said. "I mean huge."
Sure, it was two of the top three all-time winningest college football programs going head to head and Texas' first win over the Irish since the 1970 Cotton Bowl - ensuring UT's national title that season (1969). UT is now 3-9 overall vs Notre Dame.
Texas and Notre Dame had the football stage to themselves Sunday night, and the 102,315 in attendance at DKR was a UT record.
But there was so much more going on.
For starters - Texas started a true freshman QB in a season opener for the first time since Bobby Layne in 1944.
And after falling behind 7-0 in a blink of an eye, that freshman QB - Shane Buechele - led the offense right down the field for an answer with a 19-yard TD strike to Armanti Foreman.
After going up 17 points (31-14) in the third quarter, Texas' momentum just stopped as Irish QB DeShone Kizer took over - running for a 29-yard TD and going 5-of-7 passing, including a TD pass to Torii Hunter as Notre Dame scored 21 unanswered points to go up 35-31.
When it looked like Texas had answered with a 19-yard TD run by D'Onta Foreman with 3:29 left, special teams nightmares of the past two seasons reared up. Notre Dame's Shaun Crawford returned Texas' blocked extra point attempt for two points, tying the game at 37-37.
But a Texas defense that allowed Notre Dame to run for 203 yards (4.6 ypc) and convert 7-of-15 third downs (45 percent), bowed up as P.J. Locke sacked Kizer on second-and-8, ultimately forcing a punt that helped force OT.
"A year ago, we probably would have lost that football game because we wouldn't have known how to finish," Charlie Strong said. "And we wouldn't have known how to just play through. They had so much confidence in one another."
Swoopes, who didn't start the game Sunday night, finished it. Two touchdowns in each of the overtimes with the second the game-winner.
"I told Tyrone earlier today, 'You're going to have an opportunity to go win this football game for us,' and you look at what he did," Strong said.
As the scoreboard blared "Swoopes There It Is!" in the aftermath of a dog pile Shane Buechele knew better than to jump in - but did so anyway (his father, former Texas Rangers' infielder Steve Buechele, advised him to always stay out of dog piles), I saw WWE star and World's Strongest Man Mark Henry on the field.
"They learned a lot of valuable lessons tonight without having to take the ass-whoopin' to learn it," Henry said.
And Henry was right.
Buechele threw a perfect deep ball to John Burt that would have been a TD on UT's second possession. But Burt dropped it. Sterlin Gilbert came back to the exact same play on the second play of the third quarter, and it went for a 72-yard TD.
"John told me to trust him after the first one," Buechele said. "And I did."
There were too many penalties (11 for 104 yards).
Too much inconsistency on defense.
Buechele had an interception returned to the Texas 6 that set up an Irish TD with 5:06 left in the third quarter, cutting UT's lead to 31-28.
The blocked extra-point returned for a score by ND, during which Charlie Strong even drew a sideline interference flag.
But the Longhorns didn't let those plays break them. Instead, they answered all the adversity. They did it with big plays - exactly when Texas needed them.
Locke's sack of Kizer with two minutes left in the game.
DeShon Elliott's massive hit on ND's Torii Hunter separating Hunter from the ball in the end zone (and separating Hunter from his senses), breaking up a sure Irish touchdown.
That was followed by Naashon Hughes blocking Notre Dame's 36-yard FG attempt to preserve a 31-28 lead with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
DT Chris Nelson led the Horns with 8 tackles, including two TFLs for (minus-7 yards).
LB Malik Jefferson had six unassisted tackles, including a sack.
D'Onta Foreman was a beast (24 carries for 131 yards, 5.5 ypc, and a HUGE, 19-yard TD run with 3:29 left that briefly gave Texas a 37-35 lead (before ND tied the game at 37-37 by returning the blocked extra point for two points).
Buechele showed the poise of a veteran in taking the field at UT's 32 with 5:23 left - down 35-31 - and leading the go-ahead, 68-yard TD drive to Foreman's score in 8 plays. Buechele finished 16 of 26 passing for 280 yards and 2 TDs with one INT along with 5 carries for 33 yards (6.6 ypc) and a TD on the ground.
And then it was Swoopes sealing the deal in OT.
"We just weren't going to lose tonight," said senior RG Kent Perkins, who came out of the game three times after being slow to get up - but finished the game. "We wanted it too much."
When it was over, Texas had run 86 plays for 517 yards (compared to ND's 76 plays for 444 yards).
"We'll take that as a start," smiled new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
"It was a great team win," Swoopes said after finishing with 13 carries for 53 yards (4.1 ypc) and 3 TDs.
The kind of gut-check, team win over a Top 10 opponent that can get a program to believe it can be great again.
No one knows that like Perrin, who played defensive end for Darrell Royal.
"This was huge!" Perrin repeated.
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