There was no need for Notre Dame coaches to scour the nation searching for game films of teams that moved the ball against Texas.
No, simply plug in a tape of last year’s game against the Longhorns.
“I think if I were them, I’d try to run it down our throats,” Texas nose guard Chris Akins said. “They have a big fullback, good running backs and a strong line. And in the past, we’ve had trouble stopping the run.”
In last year’s game, the Fighting Irish carried the ball 54 times for 238 yards. They threw another 273 yards for good measure in a 55-27 victory at South Bend, Ind.
Texas players expect a similar approach from the Irish, but hope for a different outcome.
Although many Texas defenders say pressuring quarterback Ron Powlus is important, they agree Texas’ success depends on stopping the run.
“In order to beat the great teams, you have to get to their leader, and their leader is Ron Powlus,” Texas linebacker Tyson King said. “But they have a great offensive line and running backs. They’re just going to try to line up and run over us.”
Popular theory has the Irish changing their offense by using multiple-receiver formations. And Powlus has thrown 64 times in the first two games, completing 38 for 454 yards.
But coach Lou Holtz said their offense is not much different, despite the increased throws.
Holtz also remembers last year’s game.
“Our offense still has not changed much,” Holtz said. “We’ll do some different formations and split some people out, but it’s still the same. We like to run the football and control the football.”
The Fighting Irish took control, outscoring Texas, 36-7, in the final 23 minutes and 43 seconds last year.
Although Texas led by one point midway through the third quarter, Notre Dame’s size wore down a Texas defense that was without injured end Tony Brackens. The Longhorns, unable to match the Irish physically, made mistakes.
Texas quarterback James Brown finished with three interceptions, the Longhorns lost two fumbles and their special teams broke down as Texas surrendered 511 yards and the most points since a 66-15 loss to Houston in 1988.
“I know that game’s in the back of a lot of players’ minds,” Texas cornerback Bryant Westbrook said. “There is more confidence on this team than there’s ever been. The players know we can win a national championship. We know we can win the Big 12. There’s no doubt in my mind there’s going to be a different outcome.”
Texas’ defense can only hope that’s true.
Powlus’ 273 yards marked the second-highest total of his career at the time, tailback Randy Kinder gained 129 yards on 29 carries, and fullback Marc Edwards scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Texas likely will use fullback Ricky Williams a lot - on the fullback dive, as well as catching balls out of the backfield. But the Longhorns also will try to hit some long passes.
“We’ll hold nothing back,” coach John Mackovic said.
Meanwhile, the Longhorns said last year’s blowout will help Saturday when the teams line up before a record crowd of 83,312.
“I think this is a chance to play the type of game we wished we would have played last year,” guard Dan Neil said. “And it’s a chance to showcase our team and show everybody that Texas is a good team.”
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