Our staff takes on Saturday’s Texas-Rice matchup:
Brian Davis: Well, 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.
Kirk Bohls: It’s only one game, but there 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.
Cedric Golden: (Psst, the defense struggled, 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.
Else things could get ugly. Or uglier.
Ryan Autullo: It’s not just about the win — style points 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.