UT 34, Rice 9: Out with the old, in with the new

One game in and the effects of program-wide change can already be felt on the 40 Acres.

Texas’ 34-9 victory over Rice on Saturday ushered in a new era for UT football, one with trick plays and a lot of true freshman contributors (18 saw the field, a record for a Mack Brown coached team). After a slow first half, which is to be expected with a team running a new offense against someone other than their scout team, Texas still had 13-6 lead at the half. The lone touchdown came after a fumbled Rice punt return left Texas with a short field.

“We forced the one turnover with our punt coverage team that led to the points,” said Brown. “We had some long drives, but we didn’t score when we got into the red zone. Coming out the second half, I was really proud of the offense taking a 99-yard drive to score, a 94-yard drive to score, and being really physical in the running game.”

The second-half drives instilled confidence in the new offense, which included trick plays that added a little fun into a program that didn’t have much of it last season.

“It’s a big deal,” said receiver John Harris, who had one of the most exciting plays of the night passing for a touchdown off a reverse. “It grabs the crowd and grabs the team. It brings a lot of energy to the team when you need it.”

The 36-yard touchdown pass to Jaxon Shipley was the first thrown by a non-QB since Ricky Williams in 1997.

“I think as part of stuff that we’re trying to incorporate with these players and utilize their skills, that’s part of it,” said Co-Offensive Coordinator Bryan Harsin of the play. “We’ve run that play in practice, and John’s made great decisions on that whether it’s there or not. We trust him, and he did the exact same thing and actually threw a heck of a ball.”

Probably the most anticipated appearance of the night was by true freshman Malcolm Brown who had 16 carries, all coming in the second half. He led the Horns in rushing with 86 yards, the most by a Texas freshman in a season opener since Jamaal Charles in 2005. Sophomore Mike Davis led the team in receiving with his career-high 115 yards on three catches.

As the offense came alive in the second half, the Texas defense played at a steady pace throughout the game. The only cause for concern was that the Texas D had zero sacks and zero interceptions. Not something you expect from a pass defense with a lot of athletes at defensive end and corner.

To the credit of the defense, Rice’s offense played very conservatively. The longest pass of the night by the Owls was a 15-yarder by running back Sam McGuffie. Also, despite the lack of forced turnovers, the Texas defense didn’t allow a touchdown. It was the first time the Horns held an opposing offense out of the endzone since the Big 12 title game against Nebraska in 2009.

As far as season openers go, this was a good start for a Texas team that greatly needed one. Still quite a bit to work on, but the feeling after this year’s Rice game as opposed to last year’s is much better. Up next week is BYU, which with the latest rumblings about conference realignment, could be a preview to a future conference foe. But we’ll save that for another time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>