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'I've waited a long time for this opportunity.' Texas' Casey Thompson is ready to start against Rice

Casey Thompson came to a realization Tuesday morning.

Given the nod to start at quarterback on Saturday against Rice, the Texas junior thought about the last time he had started a game. It was his senior year of high school, a game played on Nov. 3, 2017. So it's been awhile.

Thompson led Newcastle High, from Southmoore, Okla., to a 41-23 win that night over Cache. On Saturday — 1,415 days since his last start — he'll look to lead the Longhorns, not the Newcastle Racers, to a victory.

"I've waited a long time for this opportunity," Thompson said on Tuesday. "I just think it's a testament to perseverance and hard work."

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson throws a pass against Louisiana during the fourth quarter of the Longhorns' season-opening win. He has been named the starter for Saturday's home game against Rice after backing up Hudson Card the first two games.

Texas (1-1) opened its season with Hudson Card, who played well in UT's opener against then-No. 23 Louisiana. But the redshirt freshman struggled in last Saturday's humbling loss at Arkansas.

On Monday, head coach Steve Sarkisian announced that he was mixing up his huddle. "I think it's fair to Casey to give him this opportunity," he said. "We're going to let him go and see what happens."

On Tuesday, Thompson met with the media for the first time since the middle of August. And with a pass rush from Rice upcoming, he first dealt with a blitz of questions from reporters.

When asked if he had thought about transferring after Card was named the starter, he said no. Thompson said he figured that he had invested too much — he signed with Texas in 2018 — to "quit and let up at this point." He decided instead that "If I'm not going to get named Week 1 and it's not going to be given to me, then I have to go take it myself."

Golden: Uncertainty at quarterback doesn't bode well for the Texas Longhorns

Thompson said that he would prepare this week for the Owls the same as he would if he was still the backup. He watched game film on Sunday and Monday. Study sessions on third downs and the red zone were on tap for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is for going back over the playbook, reminders and tips.

Thompson pushed back on the assertion that he lost the quarterback competition this offseason. In his mind, Card was simply a subjective selection.

"I don't really like to use the word 'lost,' because I don't feel that I lost the job. I just think that it wasn't my opportunity at that time," Thompson said. "When I see people say that I lost the job, I just say no, they chose to go with another guy. It doesn't mean that you're not a good player."

Thompson has seen significant playing time in each of Texas' last three games, going back to the end of last season. The fate of the Longhorns — the 38-18 win over Louisiana and the 40-21 loss to Arkansas — had been essentially decided when he entered at the end of the third quarter the last two weeks. More notably, he replaced an injured Sam Ehlinger at halftime of last year's Alamo Bowl and led Texas to a 55-23 rout of Colorado, throwing four touchdowns.

"He's come in and played well when he's gotten his opportunities," veteran offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter said.

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson watches Hudson Card throw a pass during a preseason practice last month. Card would later be named the starter for the season, but will back up Thompson on Saturday. "I don't really like to use the word 'lost,' because I don't feel that I lost the job," Thompson said. "I just think that it wasn't my opportunity at that time."

In those last three games, Thompson has thrown five touchdowns and only six incomplete passes. He has led Texas to a score on nine of the 10 drives he has quarterbacked against Colorado, Louisiana and Arkansas.

"With Casey, I know he has a little more experience than Hudson," UT running back Bijan Robinson said Monday. "He can make some reads or make some calls that he might have seen before as he's been here. I'm happy for Casey. I know he's going to execute and (we'll) ride with him moving forward."

Two years ago, Texas beat up on Rice in Houston. Thompson got into that game in the second half. He completed five of his seven passes in a 48-13 win.

This Rice team is 0-2 with 38-17 and 44-7 losses to Arkansas and Houston on its resume. Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson and Houston's Clayton Tune have averaged 7.7 yards per rush against the Owls.

Much like he did with Thompson the past two weeks, Sarkisian is figuring Card into this week's game plan. But it's Thompson who will get the biggest chance to make a statement.

"It doesn't matter if I get five plays or if I get 50 plays, I'm going to try to do my best on every play," Thompson said. "That's my mindset. I'm trying to focus on that and take it one play at a time. Also to have the ability to learn and grow from your mistakes? Every day I wake up, I try to say today's going to be a great day. I cannot fail, I can only learn and grow."

Saturday's game

Rice at Texas, 7 p.m., LHN, 104.9