AUSTIN, Texas -- After Texas, the team that found new and interesting ways to lose last season, coughed up a 17-point, third-quarter lead at home against No. 10 Notre Dame;
After the Longhorns scored a touchdown to regain the lead with 3 minutes, 29 seconds to play, only to see the Fighting Irish block the extra point attempt and return it for the deuce that sent the game into overtime, 37-37;
After head coach Charlie Strong stopped on his jog into the locker room to hug Gov. Greg Abbott, the honorary captain;
After Texas opened the 2016 season with a 50-47, double-overtime win, it sure feels different in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The record crowd of 102,315 that went deliriously into the steamy holiday night might wake up on Labor Day and remember that the Longhorns are only 1-0. But if ever a program will get a bounce from one victory, Texas will use this one as a springboard.
"We've been down for so long and people have been talking about us," Strong said. "It was a night for us to just make it right. At least for one game, for one game. I'm just so proud of our football team."
A year ago, Texas lost 38-3 at Notre Dame, and lost at Cal on a missed extra point attempt in the final two minutes, and lost to Oklahoma State because of a fumbled punt snap in the final minute. The Longhorns beat Oklahoma and got shut out by Iowa State. They were a 5-7 mess, another chapter of a program that has been in turmoil ever since quarterback Colt McCoy's arm went numb in the BCS National Championship Game seven seasons, one coach, two athletic directors and 35 losses ago.
Time has passed. Enough time has passed that the university felt it could honor the 2005 national championship team without it reflecting on the current run of mediocrity. At halftime, 89 members of that team took the field to cheers, none as loud as when its coach stepped forward to speak. ESPN analyst Mack Brown, wearing a going-to-the-bank blue suit, was bathed in love only three years after the Orangebloods shed few tears when he left.
Time has passed because the Longhorns started rookies in the program's two most celebrated positions. The crowd also roared when Bevo XV stepped onto the FieldTurf for the first time. But the 1,100-pound, 19-month-old grand champion show steer didn't perform as well as Buechele, who threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns in his first college game.
The January enrollee has star written all over him. The writing is always in erasable ink until a freshman actually plays for a while. For every Josh Rosen, the UCLA quarterback who threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns in his collegiate debut a year ago, there is a Josh Rosen, who threw for 106 yards and three interceptions two weeks later.
Judging by the plays Buechele ran, he had a thin playbook. His 28 passes, of which he completed 16, consisted largely of throws into the flat and just across the line. Six throws, however, showed off his ability to throw the deep fade with precision and strength.
Buechele completed three of them, two for touchdowns and a third that set up another. A 19-yard first-quarter throw to Armanti Foreman on the left edge of the end zone was a textbook throw and an even better catch. A 68-yarder to Jerrod Heard, who started 10 games at quarterback last year and is now a wide receiver, set up the 'Horns third touchdown.
The longest, a 75-yarder to John Burt on the second play of the second half, gave Burt the chance to redeem himself for the sure touchdown he dropped when Buechele hit him in full stride on the Longhorns' second possession of the game.
"Being able to come in [in January] and have these guys trust me was a big thing," Buechele said. "Being able to come in and have those guys take me in, I was really thankful for that. Just being able to have their trust is all I ask for."
No one believed in Buechele more than Swoopes, the 6-foot-4, 249-pound, run-first quarterback. He deleted Twitter and Instagram off his phone last week because he didn't want to hear the public wail about his limitations.
Against Notre Dame, Swoopes illustrated why his package of plays is known as the 18-Wheeler. He directed most of the two second-quarter touchdowns that gave Texas a 21-14 lead. When he returned to the game in both overtimes, the worn-down Notre Dame defense could not slow him down. Irish safety Avery Sebastian took him on in the second overtime and had to be helped off the field. Swoopes scored the winning touchdown on a 6-yard run on the next play.
"It feels different, but it feels good," said Swoopes, who finished with 53 yards on 13 carries. "Anything that I have to do to win, I'll do it. I feel like this team has the same mentality. ... I don't know what it was. I don't know how to describe it. I just knew we were going to keep on fighting."
The Longhorns gained 517 yards of total offense in their first game under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert, another sign that maybe Year 3 will be different for Strong. He has taken a lot of guff for going 11-14 since he has been in Austin.
On Sunday night, the calendar read September. But Strong's team had just won a game that felt like November. At the end of his conference, someone asked him if he felt a sense of relief.
"No," Strong said, laughing, "because I've still got a few more to go, so I don't have any relief. I don't think you get any relief."
This time, the heartbreak was felt on the other sideline. The Longhorns face Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the first half of the season. They will find out soon enough if this victory signified a change, or merely a finish in which the coin flipped their way. The thing about coin flips is, if you flip one 12 times, you usually finish around 6-6.