Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Breakfast with Bevo: Texas vs. Rice offers Thompson his first start, Horns a fresh start,

Good morning. Breakfast is served.

It's Saturday, Sept. 18 — Texas hosts Rice tonight and the Cowboys (Chargers) and Texans (Browns) are both on the road tomorrow.

"A FRESH START" is how we headlined our Sept. 4 game day advance story setting up Texas' season opener with Louisiana, a tip of the cap to both new head coach Steve Sarkisian and also to redshirt freshman Hudson Card, who was making his first career start. We could have gone with the same headline today — because now it's veteran backup Casey Thompson who's making his first start tonight.

So, our headline today: CASEY AT THE BAT.

After tonight, Texas will be a quarter done with its regular-season schedule. And yet tonight is a fresh start, too.

It's a day of starts and stops:

Thompson gets his first start.

The Longhorns are looking for a fresh start.

The Owls are looking to stop recent history. And longer history, too. (See below.)

"Rice," our own Kirk Bohls wrote in today's Statesman, "is the perfect elixir for what ails a team still licking its Arkansas wounds."

More:How to watch, stream Texas football vs. Rice Owls

Kickoff at Royal-Memorial Stadium is at 7. It's a Longhorn Network game (radio — 104.9, 105.3 for Spanish, 1260 or 1490). It's starting to get darker earlier this time of year, but when the game kicks off it should be sunny, clear and right at 90.

How the Statesman staff is picking the game. Our W-L for Horns games this season is in parenthesis:

Picking Texas: This week, all of us — columnists Kirk Bohls (2-0) and Cedric Golden (1-1), beat writers Brian Davis (0-2) and Danny Davis (1-1) and the two editors, Jason Jarrett (1-1) and me (1-1).

The Horns are 26-point favorites. They're 1-1 against the spread.

Our coverage for today's game included a column today from Bohls and Golden, who addressed 10 specific topics pinned to today's games including two off the bat about tonight's game: will the Horns struggle at all and whether Thompson or Texas A&M's Zach Calzada (also making his first start) will have a better game today. And speaking of those two quarterbacks, Cedric's column on Thursday raised an early-season red flag for both the Longhorns and the Aggies, saying if you're already having quarterback issues in Week 3, you could be in trouble. Brian Davis' story today is on Thompson and UT's other various post-Fayetteville fixes. Danny Davis wrote about Cameron Dicker's struggles early this season, which included a missed field goal and a blocked punt at Arkansas.

Found: The Dallas Morning News looked at the small window of time that Sarkisian has to fix what needs to be fixed before these games start getting real next week and, earlier in the week, addressed how eerily familiar this 1-1 start to the season must feel to UT fans.

Opposition research: Back before the season opener, the Houston Chronicle asked five questions about this year's Rice team.

More:What is the Texas Longhorns vs. Rice Owls football betting line, over/under?

The Steve Sarkisian era kicked off in style on Sept. 4 when the Longhorns knocked off No. 23 Louisiana in the season opener, but things went south pretty quickly one week later in Fayetteville, a 40-21 loss to Arkansas.

What's at stake tonight in the Texas football game

For Texas, oh, only the reins on Steve Sarkisian's program. Is that hyperbole? I say no. Lose tonight and the wheels go off this thing. Just as last week's 40-21 embarrassment in Fayetteville (the game wasn't that close) was a warning shot for those thinking the Horns will not only survive, but thrive in the SEC, dropping a game at home as a nearly four-touchdown favorite to a team you've beaten 14 straight times — would be so much worse. Think Kansas 2016 worse. Coming right after the loss to Arkansas and the quarterback change, it would be, well, cataclysmic in terms of national reputation, fan support and recruiting. Never say never, but that would be a shocker. Other things at sake: Thompson's status as the starter, where this team is headed as Big 12 play opens and where the Horns stand in Year 1 of Sark.

For Rice, obviously, it would be the first win of the season and it would come at the end of a SWC reunion tour that's seen them be competitive against but not able to close against Arkansas and Houston. And if you've been unhappy with with Texas' quarterback play this season, the Owls are in much more dire straits: former Nebraska QB Luke McCaffrey has struggled out of the gate — 14-of-19 for 161 yards, one touchdown and three picks and he's completing only 48.5% of his passes. 

Three things you should know:

1. Thompson got the starting job in large part because he has produced despite his limited opportunities. Bijan Robinson was the Alamo Bowl offensive MPV, but it also could have gone to Thompson, who stepped in for Sam Ehlinger at halftime and threw four touchdowns in the final two quarters. All he's done is lead Texas to points; in nine of the 10 drives he has led over the past three games, the Horns have scored on nine of them.

2. Both teams are pretty healthy. Texas should get TE Jared Wiley back from a banged-up shoulder, but we probably won't see WR Troy Omeire, who's still not back yet from a knee injury. Reserve CB Jahdae Barron is out. The Owls lost a starting defensive lineman during training camp.

3. In his last six games, Bijan Robinson has totaled 694 rushing yards and six touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry, and has added three receiving scores. In all, he has 900 total yards and nine touchdowns in that span, averaging 9.1 yards per touch. He's coming off his first relatively quiet game since sometime toward the end of last season. Texas wants him churning forward heading into conference play.

More:From the archives: QB Casey Thompson commits to Texas. 'This class will be special.'

Texas quarterback Casey Thompson spent three years backing up Sam Ehlinger, then wowed everyone with his second-half relief performance in the Alamo Bowl win over Colorado. He makes his first career start Saturday night against Rice.

Top players to follow

Texas (1-1): QB Casey Thompson (22-36-285, 2/0); RB Bijan Robinson (39-172-2, 4.4 ypc); WR Jordan Whittington (12-145-1); LB DeMarvion Overshown (21 tackles, 1½ TFL); LB Luke Brockermeyer (14 tackles, 3 TFL); DB B.J. Foster (12 tackles, 1 INT)

Rice (0-2): QB Luke McCaffrey (14-29-161, 1/3); RB Khalan Griffin (32-121-0, 3.8 ypc); TE Jordan Myers (7-52-1); LB Antonio Montero (21 tackles, 3 TFL); S Naeem Smith (12 tackles, 2 breakups).

Who we're specifically watching tonight:

Kirk Bohls: Xavier Worthy. Obviously, Thompson is the one to watch. But Sarkisian said that this team's passing game has been "irrelevant" so far, and Worthy has a great opportunity to usurp Joshua Moore's role as the lead wide receiver. This staff loves the freshman's athleticism and speed and explosiveness.

Cedric Golden: Cameron Dicker. Dicker the Kicker didn't fare very well as Dicker the Punter, dropping a punt snap deep in UT territory after missing a 52-yard field goal. I wonder if he has too much on his plate. Rice presents an opportunity to let him rest a bit and give Ryan Bujcevski some run at punter. 

Brian Davis: Jordan Whittington. His wrong shoulder look in the end zone last week wasn’t anywhere near as egregious as the open field drop. He’s a far, far better receiver and athlete than what he showed against Arkansas. I bet we see it against Rice.

I'm watching D'Shawn Jamison, who's still looking to make some noise this season either as a defensive back or kick returner. He came close in the opener, but a penalty wiped out his 83-yard punt return score. And so far, no interceptions or pass breakups. He's due.

Stats vs. stats

How Texas and Rice rank nationally in some key stats categories.

Scoring: Texas T-71st, Rice 125th. Edge: Texas (29.5 ppg)

Points allowed: Texas 95th, Rice 120th. Edge: Texas (29.0 ppg)

Offense: Texas 98th, Rice 123rd. Edge: Texas (338.5 ypg)

Defense: Texas 101st, Rice 84th. Edge: Rice (383.0 ypg)

Passing: Texas 91st, Rice 112th. Edge: Texas (191.5 ypg)

Stopping the pass: Texas T-71st, Rice 54th. Edge: Rice (188.5 ypg)

Rushing: Texas 81st, Rice 106th. Edge: Texas (147.0 ypg)

Stopping the run: Texas 111th, 105th. Edge: Rice (194.5 ypg)

Turnover margin: Texas T-43rd, Rice T-123rd. Edge: Texas (+.5)

Converting 3rd downs: Texas T-29th, Rice T-108th. Edge: Texas (.500)

Red zone offense: Texas T-1st, Rice 129th. Edge: Texas (100%)

Red zone defense: Texas 32nd, Rice T-89th. Edge: Texas (70%)

Time of possession: Texas 48th, Rice 49th. Edge: Texas (31:05)

Fewest penalties: Texas 43rd, Rice 99th. Edge: Texas (3 per game)

Interceptions: Texas T-64th, Rice T-64th. Edge: Push (1 total)

Sacks: Texas 68th, Rice 44th. Edge: Rice (2.5 per game)

What do these really mean? Depends on which side of the fence you're on. Out of these 16 categories, Texas holds a decisive 11-4 edge with one push. Last week the Horns held a 7-6-3 edge in these same categories over Arkansas and got pushed around, and Louisiana held a 9-7 edge in the season opener and lost 38-18.

Welcome to Breakfast with Bevo, your go-to morning read for all things Longhorns.

History lessons

Only three other teams have faced Texas more than the Rice Owls (Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Baylor), and the Horns have lots of history on their side heading into tonight: Texas leads the all-time series 73-21-1, including a 43-8 mark in Austin, and has won 14 straight dating back to a 1994 loss at Rice.

This will be Casey Thompson's first career start. Here's what the last five Horns QBs did in their first games:

→ Tyrone Swoopes (2014): Thrust into the starting role after David Ash retired from football earlier in the week, Swoopes went 20-for-31 for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception in a 41-7 home loss to BYU and Taysom Hill.

→ Jerrod Heard (2015): The freshman had 216 yards of total offense, going 4-for-7 for 120 yards and a pair of touchdowns as a passer and leading the team in rushing with 91 yards in a 42-28 win over Rice. His historic night against Cal came one week later.

→ Shane Buechele (2016): He became the first UT true freshman to start at QB since Bobby Layne in 1944. He threw for 280 yards, two TDs and a pick in the dramatic 50-47 upset of No. 10 Notre Dame.

→ Sam Ehlinger (2017): A week after the season-opening loss to Maryland, first-year Horns coach Tom Herman handed the starting job to the freshman from Westlake, who threw for 222 yards and a TD in a 56-0 shutout of San Jose State.

→ Hudson Card (two weeks ago): The Lake Travis graduate kicked off the Sarkisian era with a 38-18 win over Louisiana, hitting 14 of 21 for 224 yards and three total touchdowns.

Two weeks later, it's Thompson's turn.

The last five Texas-Rice games:

2008: Texas 52-10. Was a 600-yard day of offense for the No. 7 Horns.

2010: Texas 34-17. First season opener on the road since 1995.

2011: Texas 34-9. Garrett Gilbert, Mike Davis powered the season-opening win.

2015: Texas 42-28. Was Jerrod Heard's first career start (216 total yards, 2 TDs).

2019: Texas 48-13. All cylinders clicked at NRG Stadium. Dicker's 57-yard FG (a career best) was UT's longest since Jeff Ward's 57-yarder vs. the Aggies in 1985.

The Horns are 9-0-1 all-time on games played on Sept. 18, the lone outlier a 21-21 tie with Syracuse in 1993:

1948: Texas 33, LSU 0

1954: Texas 20, LSU 6

1965: Texas 31, Tulane 0

1971: Texas 28, at UCLA 10

1976: Texas 17, North Texas 14

1982: Texas 21, Utah 12

1993: Texas 21, Syracuse 21

1999: Texas 18, Rice 13

2010: Texas 24, at Texas Tech 14

Texas roundup

Football: In NIL news, we had a story on a local company that's partnered with Texas tight ends to the tune of $10,000 per, and also a Brian Davis column on Bobby Lackey, the Longhorns' very first Sports Illustrated cover boy who passed away earlier this month at the age of 83. And Danny's Friday recruiting notebook asks whether Sarkisian is selling UT's culture or wins and losses to prospects; the Horns' 2022 recruiting class, by the way, has vaulted up to No. 3 nationally. 

Baseball: The Horns got a 2023 commitment from Sam Ardoin, the younger brother of Texas catcher Silas Ardoin and an infielder from Louisiana.

Volleyball: No. 1 Texas dropped Texas A&M in four sets Friday night in College Station, improving to 8-0 with the 25-22, 25-14, 22-25, 29-27 win in front of a record crowd of 6,822 at Reed Arena. Logan Eggleston led Texas with 21 kills and hit .327. She also had 14 digs and four blocks to compile her sixth double-double of the season. Skylar Fields had 13 kills.

Soccer: On Wednesday, midfielder Lexi Missimo was an honorable mention selection to Top Drawer Soccer's national team of the week. She'd already been named the Big 12's freshman of the week.

Women's golf: No. 9 Texas tied for the low round of the day on Wednesday but finished fifth at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate in Minnesota. No. 10 South Carolina won it. UT freshman Bohyun Park shot a 4-under-par 68 in the final round to finish 10th individually. She was making her college debut.

Must-see TV

Today's three best TV games:

At 11 a.m. (Fox), the program formerly known as Nebraska at No. 3 Oklahoma in a chance to remember the good ol' (Big 8) days.

At 2:30 p.m. (CBS), No. 1 Alabama at No. 9 Florida, the only top-10 matchup of the day.

At 6:30 (ABC), No. 12 Penn State at No. 20 Auburn, an interesting Big Ten-SEC pairing (they've only played three times before) that'll tell us a bit about both.

Today's Big 12 docket:

Nebraska (2-1) at No. 3 Oklahoma (2-0), 11 a.m., Fox

No. 15 Virginia Tech (2-0) at West Virginia (1-1), 11, Fox Sports 1

Nevada (2-0) at Kansas State (2-0), 1 p.m., Big 12 Network or ESPN+

Baylor (2-0, 0-0) at Kansas (1-1, 0-0), 2:30, Big 12 Network or ESPN+

Florida International (1-1) at Texas Tech (2-0), 6, Big 12 Network or ESPN+

Rice (0-2) at Texas (1-1), 7, Longhorn Network

No. 22 Oklahoma State (2-0) at Boise State (1-1), 8, Fox Sports 1

No. 14 Iowa State (1-1) at UNLV (0-2), 9:30, CBS Sports Network

Texas tick tock

Today's schedule:

7 a.m.: Campus parking lots open. Remember, kickoff is at 7.

2 p.m.: Bevo Boulevard opens outside Royal-Memorial Stadium.

4: The Bevo XV parade.

4:45: The Texas team arrives at DKR, also known as the Stadium Stampede over on Bevo Boulevard.

5: The gates open at DKR.

5:30: Longhorn City Limits pregame concert — It's Salt-N-Pepa of "Push It," "Whatta Man" and "Shake Your Thang" fame.

6:30: Bevo Boulevard closes.

7: Kickoff.

Lowell Galindo and Sam Acho are handling the TV booth for LHN tonight. We've got our fab four of Bohls, Golden and both Davises covering the game from the DKR press box.

Follow us on Twitter today and through tonight's game: @bevobeat, @kbohls, @CedGolden, @BDavisAAS and @aasdanny.

On Instagram: bevobeat.

We'll be tweeting throughout today and tonight, and are offering up our postgame analysis, columns, stories and Horns report card later tonight and tomorrow morning here on Hookem.

OK, Breakfast is over. We'll be back Wednesday morning to talk Texas-Texas Tech.