Keys to the game: Notre Dame

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Stay in the moment

Since Texas’ season concluded last December, all eyes in Austin have been on Notre Dame. When Sunday night rolls around and the Longhorns take the field surrounded by a lively home crowd, the pressure will be on.

The pressure of performing on a nationally televised stage in a showdown between two storied programs could be overwhelming for the youngsters, so the upperclassmen need to step up and lead the team both mentally and physically.

This is a statement game for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns and with a lot on the line, they need to block out distractions and stay focused.

Quick start on offense

When the two teams met in South Bend last season, Notre Dame scored two quick touchdowns and never looked back en route to a 38-3 victory. With various uncertainties remaining for the Longhorns on both sides of the ball, they can’t afford to get stuck in an early hole. If they want any shot at winning this time around, playing catch up isn’t going to cut it.

The ground attack will carry the Longhorns on Sunday with the one-two punch of running backs junior D’Onta Foreman and sophomore Chris Warren, but they’ll need to strike right off the bat.

Last season, Notre Dame held the Longhorns to 163 yards of total offense and limited them to three points. Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s new and improved offense will have the chance to show what it’s truly capable of.    

Contain Notre Dame’s quarterbacks

Notre Dame’s quarterback tandem of senior Malik Zaire and junior DeShone Kizer will supply a substantial challenge for a Texas defense that was not up to par last season. 

Head coach Brian Kelly has yet to announce whether Zaire or Kizer will take the first snap on Sunday, but both are equally capable of leading the Irish.

 Zaire started for the Irish last year and threw 19-of-22 for 313 yards and three touchdowns against the Longhorns before injuring his ankle later in the season.       

Texas’ defense needs to show major improvement from last season. Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson is the face of Texas’ defensive unit and proved to be a reliable leader during his freshman campaign, but the rest of the squad, especially the defensive line, needs to stay strong to keep Notre Dame’s offense in check.