Expectations are always high for the Longhorns and so far this year Charlie Strong's team has been falling short. He installed a new offense over the offseason, replaced his primary playcaller after the first game and started a redshirt freshman in the second game against Rice. While Texas is a team in flux, I think that there were some issues they showed against Notre Dame that are not so easy to change: the play of the Defensive and Offensive linemen.
Texas on Defense
The Longhorn defense is able to show many looks:
Strong switches between the 4-3 under and a traditional 4-2 nickel, in addition to his tried and true 3-3-5 packages.
And against Notre Dame they were even more varied showing a six defensive back personnel package (4-1-6 and 3-2-6). Texas has a young defense led by true freshman linebacker #46 Malik Jefferson, who is the one linebacker that will be in the game no matter the personnel package.
Here we can see the 'Horns in a 3-2-6 personnel group with a linebacker and 3 defensive linemen up front, #46 and 2 defensive backs at the second level where we would normally expect to see linebackers, a cornerback on either side and two deep safeties.
After the snap Texas drops into zone coverage with the underneath zone being 5-7 yards deep and a deep zone (15+ yards deep) where the safeties each have a half of the field.
The Defensive Ends rush around the end of the offensive line and keep contain while the Linebacker and Defensive Tackle run a stunt with the Linebacker slanting to his left and the Defensive tackle going around to the right in an effort to confuse the Irish Offensive Line.
The Notre Dame Center (#72) and Left Guard (#58) pick up the stunt perfectly, handing off their respective assignments while the Offensive Tackles handle the Defensive Ends. This allows the quarterback to locate the wide receiver who finds a hole in the zone. Without generating a pass rush, there is no way that Texas can prevent Jared Goff from finding the holes in their zone coverage.
On this 3rd and 7 play Texas has four Defensive Linemen in the game, one Linebacker (#46), and six Defensive Backs. Before the snap seven players are in a position to pass rush.
At the snap 5 players actually pass rush while the rest of the defense drops into a shallow zone with a single deep safety. I am not sure what the defensive coordinator was thinking here because there are only 2 Cornerbacks on the right of the screen to cover 3 wide receivers.
Notre Dame however runs crossing routes into the teeth of the Texas coverage (spmehow three receivers end up in the same place over the middle) and the quarterback misses the Running Back running free to the left.
But the real story is that the gamble the Longhorns took in calling this pass rush does not pay off as the rushers utterly fail to get any pressure on the quarterback. Once again Texas runs a stunt and again the offensive line picks it up. Here is the play with all the pre-snap movement.
Texas on Offense
Here the Longhorn Offensive Line are facing a very similar sort of stunt. Notre Dame doesn't do all the pre-snap movement and deception as the Texas defense showed, they don't seem to need it...
The Defensive Tackle slants to the outside while the Defensive End loops inside. The Longhorn Right Guard totally whiffs on his block and the quarterback has to run for his life.
It is almost like the Offensive Lineman isn't there. The problem persisted on run blocking.
The Defensive Line just slants to their right while the Linebacker fills the void on the left. This time neither Guard is able to handle their assigned Defensive Lineman one on one.
The run is stopped before it can begin.
And this play almost defies description as three offensive players (Right Guard, Right Tackle and Running Back) fail to block one defensive lineman while an edge rusher comes free on the right AND the Left Guard and Center fail to block a third D-lineman.
Texas lost the battle to Notre Dame in the trenches and therefore lost the game. This result had little to do with play calling or quarterback performance. The Defensive and Offensive line both simply failed. Notre Dame has some extremely talented linemen. The California linemen do not need to be that dominant, but they will need to do their jobs: rush the passer, disrupt the run; protect the passer, block the run. If they can do that they will claim Austin as Bear Territory.