Keys to the game: Week one

Akshay Mirchandani

Establish a running game

Despite having the tandem of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray at running back last

year, the Longhorns were an average rushing team, finishing sixth in the conference in
rushing offense. Injuries to the offensive line and teams forcing Texas to beat them through
the air were part of the issue.

Texas needs to establish a running game early against Notre Dame, a team that didn’t rank
in the top 50 in the country in rushing defense.

The Longhorns may have lost Brown, but Charlie Strong said they need Gray to be the key
cog in the offense this season. This is a perfect game to establish Gray as the lead back this
year, which takes some of the pressure off junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes.  


Strong announced Monday that Swoopes is the starter, but Heard will get a chance to play
as well.

Whatever the case, Texas needs to make the game easier on whichever quarterback is

Swoopes and Heard aren’t elite quarterbacks. They’re probably not going to go out and win
a game by themselves. The hope is that they can be solid quarterbacks who limit their
mistakes and put Texas in a good position to have a chance.

Texas lost a couple of reliable receivers in John Harris and Jaxon Shipley, meaning guys like
Daje Johnson and Marcus Johnson need to step up and make big plays when given the
chance. That, combined with good offensive line play and running the ball, will make things
easier for whoever is behind center.

The biggest thing is that Texas is moving to a more up-tempo, spread offense. That should
help get the best out of Swoopes and Heard, two guys who were dual-threat quarterbacks
coming out of high school. Simplifying the game for those two and getting whoever is out
there in a groove early is extremely important.

Contain Zaire

There’s a reason why Notre Dame is starting the season as the No. 11 team in the nation.

The Fighting Irish have talent everywhere on the field, but junior quarterback Malik Zaire is right up there.

Zaire started over Everett Golson in last year’s Music City Bowl against LSU and led Notre
Dame to a 31-28 victory, completing 12 of 15 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown and running for 96 yards and a touchdown.

After Golson’s transfer to Florida State, Zaire enters 2015 cemented as the
starter. His dynamic style of play will provide an early test for a Texas defense that finished No. 2 in the Big 12 last year.