Good morning. Breakfast is served.
It’s September 12th — 255 down, 110 to go.
And 49 till Halloween.
YESTERDAY: Serena Williams‘ grand slam hopes were dashed in the form of a three-set loss to Roberta Vinci in the semifinals of the U.S. Open. Both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer advanced to the men’s finals. The Astros fell to the Angels (3-2) and the Rangers blanked the A’s. Colby Lewis took a perfect game into the 8th. Houston’s lead is down to 1 1/2 games. The Express beat the Oklahoma City Dodgers 2-1, sweeping their playoff series to advance to the PCL championship series. The Giants made Eli Manning a very rich quarterback. Cincy’s A.J. Green got his too.
TODAY: Texas hosts Rice (7, LHN, 104.9) and we can’t remember a more important Horns-Owls matchup in terms of the UT program. No. 4 Baylor hosts Lamar, No. 3 TCU hosts Sam Houston State and No. 16 Texas A&M unveils its new and improved Kyle Field, against mighty Ball State. Game of the day should be No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 7 Oregon, this season’s first top-10 matchup. The Astros are at the Angels (8:05) and the Rangers host the A’s (7:05).
TOMORROW: Here comes the NFL en masse. The Texans host the Chiefs (noon, CBS) and the Cowboys host the Giants (7:30, NBC). The U.S. Open men’s final is Djokovic vs. Federer.
Sept. 12 has a sports history. On this date, Mark Messier announced his retirement (2005); Pete Sampras (1993), Stefan Edberg (1992) and Jimmy Connors (1976 and 1982) all won U.S. Open titles; The Mets’ Dwight Gooden set an MLB rookie record with his 251st strikeout (1984); Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski got his 3,000th career hit (1979); the Seattle Seahawks played their first game, a 30-24 loss to the Cardinals (1976); and White Sox DH Minnie Minoso became the oldest player to record a hit in a game — he was 53 (1976).
Last year on Sept. 12, the Vikings deactivated Adrian Peterson after he was indicted in Texas on a charge of child abuse. Also, Orioles slugger Chris Davis was suspended for 25 games after testing positive for an amphetamine.
The Longhorns have played five times on Sept. 12. Texas is 2-3 in those games.
Today’s sports birthdays: Andrew Luck (26), Yao Ming (35), Angel Cabrera (46), former Rocket Vernon Maxwell (50) and Ricky Rudd (59). Others of note — Louis CK (48), Rush drummer Neil Peart (63).
Today’s trivia: Who was the Seahawks’ starting quarterback for their first-ever regular-season game, played on Sept. 12, 1976? Hint: He began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys the year before. (Answer’s at the end of Breakfast.)
Today’s lead: Texas vs. Rice.
Storylines to follow: All eyes on the Texas offense tonight. Out is Shawn Watson; in is Jay Norvell. Will a new play-caller affect the Horns’ yardage and scoring totals? … Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard? The QBs split reps this week. … How big of a crowd will be at DKR? There were 15,000 tickets still available earlier this week, the team is down, Texas is on a horrendous three-game stretch and the fan base is nervous. Oh, and beer and wine sales start today at DKR. … How many touches will Johnathan Gray get? He had only eight against Notre Dame, and that seemed to bother Charlie Strong. Over/under for the number of Gray touches tonight? We’re setting it at 15. … Oh, and the Texas defense doesn’t get a pass here. Just because the offense is way down doesn’t hide the fact that the Horns’ defense was blown out in South Bend, too.
By the numbers: Texas has won 15 straight home openers. … The Horns are 40-2 vs. Rice since 1965. That includes the current streak of 12 straight. … Texas CB Duke Thomas will make his 25th start tonight. … The Longhorns played 20 freshmen — including 15 true freshmen — in the opener vs. Notre Dame. Only Georgia (19) played more true freshmen last week. … Texas has only 14 scholarship seniors on the roster.
What are we doing today? The Statesman is at three games today. We’ve got four writers at Texas-Rice (Brian Davis, Kevin Lyttle, Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden) — Lyttle is subbing for Ryan Autullo, who’s back home in Ohio this weekend. Suzanne Halliburton is at the Alamodome this morning, covering the Kansas State-UTSA game and writing about the debut of new Wildcats quarterback Joe Hubener. And Michael Adams is at Texas State-Prairie View A&M tonight.
Our Texas-Rice live game chat kicks off at 6:30 p.m.
Texas-Rice connections: Rice running back Luke Turner is from Gilmer High School, where he was coached by current Longhorns assistant coach Jeff Traylor. … Two of both teams’ most important offensive stars are connected. Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson and Texas running back Johnathan Gray are former AAU basketball teammates. … And Rice safety Zach Espinosa is the younger brother of former Longhorns center Dominic Espinosa. Zach had an interception in last week’s Owls win.
We asked our four staffers who’ll be at the DKR press box for their thoughts on tonight’s game (Ryan supplied one anyway):
Ryan Autullo: This time, style points definitely matter. Fans at Texas are no longer required to be patient now that Charlie Strong is refusing to do so. He acknowledged that Texas should be further along as a program when he pulled a quick trigger one week into the season and demoted play-caller Shawn Watson. Against Rice, simply winning won’t be enough to appease a restless fan base. The Longhorns had better show progression at quarterback and instill confidence that Jay Norvell is just the man who can correct an inept offense that’s made one red zone visit in three games. This looks like a win, but Texas had better look good doing it.
Kirk Bohls: For only one game, there sure are lots of questions. I’m almost as interested in the reaction of the fan base as I am the new developments of the team and the shakeup of Charlie Strong’s staff. The Longhorns limped home after their disastrous opener and have to show the faithful that the Notre Dame loss didn’t represent the team that Strong promised to have all August. Will the fans boo if Tyrone Swoopes takes the first snap? Will the crowd top 90,000 or are too many still livid over the ticket price hike or the team’s performance last week? Will they show their team the support it desperately needs? If the answers to those questions are all negative, well, there’s always beer and wine sales for the first time at Royal-Memorial Stadium. Bottoms up.
Brian Davis: Well, at least there’s nowhere to go but up. Something Charlie Strong said back in July 2014 will always stick with me. Before he even coached a game, Strong knew what a golden opportunity the Texas job was. “If we (expletive) this up, we have no one to blame but ourselves,” he said. Strong may have trusted the offensive game plan to others, but he’s fully invested in the outcome now. The long-time defensive coach wants to see more excitement, more big plays and more scoring from an offense that has capable playmakers. I’m not expecting Baylor-type numbers against Rice. But Texas can certainly do better than what we’ve all seen the last three games.
Cedric Golden: (Psst, the defense is struggling, too.) A lot has been made over the offense’s struggles in South Bend, but the defense wasn’t any better. The entire unit had a horribly inefficient start to the season. The communication doesn’t appear to be there on the back end, as safety Dylan Haines appeared to be out of position on several occasions. With the offense going through some obvious growing pains, the defense has to keep Rice behind the chains. Big plays can get a team beat, and the Horns must be better on all fronts — pass rush, tackling and, just as important, communication in the secondary.
So, what’s being written about today’s game? Goodbye, Jet Pack Guy. Hello, new game-day experience. New play-caller, maybe new quarterback … different results? And Brian Davis broke down some key Texas-Rice matchups.
Others out there: The Dallas Morning news wonders if the Watson/Norvell switcheroo is enough to fix UT’s issues. The Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith writes on the overwhelming underdog status the Owls find themselves in.
AROUND THE BIG 12: More bad news for Baylor, which can’t seem to stop stumbling over itself. First there was the sexual assault case, then last week two key defensive players were suspended for the opener, and now two assistant coaches — including offensive coordinator Kendal Briles — have been suspended because of NCAA violations. Ukwuachu update: Baylor’s pretty mum about that outside investigation into the case. Here’s the Waco Tribune-Herald’s coverage. TCU has already lost some linebackers and a key defensive end. Panic time? Hardly, writes the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. It just means there’s that much more pressure on the offense. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal had a nice read on Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and how his growing up prepared him to be a college QB. Up in Oklahoma, Daily Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel wrote on Sooners running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon and their positive effect on the new Air Raid passing game. And the paper had a feature on Sooners defensive end Charles Tapper, whose big road trip game at Notre Dame in 2013 is helping him for this week’s big road trip game at Tennessee. And the Tulsa World had a conversation with Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder on his first 10 years on the job as well as the major events in OSU sports during that time.
Kansas State at UTSA, 11 a.m., FS1
West Virginia vs. Liberty, 2 p.m.
Texas Tech vs. UTEP, 2, FSN
Iowa State vs. Iowa, 3:45, Fox
Oklahoma at Tennessee, 5, ESPN
Kansas vs. Memphis, 6
Oklahoma State vs. Central Arkansas, 6:30, FSN
Baylor vs. Lamar, 6:30, FSN
Texas vs. Rice, 7, LHN
AROUND THE FORTY ACRES:
Volleyball: No. 4 Texas swept both UTSA and Santa Clara on Friday at the Texas Classic. Here’s our coverage of the UTSA match. The tourney takes today off, but wraps up on Sunday. Texas plays Colorado State at 3 (LHN).
Tennis: UT has hired Bruce Berque as an assistant coach, replacing Ricardo Rubio, who left earlier this month to become the head coach at the University of Denver. Berque is a former head coach at Michigan.
On Sept. 12, 2014: South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
On Sept. 12, 2011: The 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City opened.
On Sept. 12, 1953: Massachussetts senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier in Rhode Island. A little more than six years later, they’d be moving to Washington D.C.
Trivia answer: The Seahawks’ opening-day quarterback for their first game as a franchise in 1976 was Jim Zorn. Zorn had been cut by the Cowboys the season before in order to make room on the roster for Preston Pearson, who had been waived by the Steelers.
OK, Breakfast is over. Thanks for stopping by.
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