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Texas vs. Rice: Five questions facing the Longhorns

Hookem

Five questions facing Texas against Rice on Saturday night:

1. How will the offense look under Casey Thompson?

After starting the season with Hudson Card, Texas is turning over the keys to the offense to Thompson, a redshirt junior, who has gone 1,415 days since his last start for Newcastle High in Southmoore, Okla. Thompson has looked good in relief — he has entered UT's last three games in the second half and has led the Longhorns to scores on nine of his 10 drives — but can he keep that going with an offense that struggled to 78 yards during a scoreless first half at Arkansas last week?

2. Will a receiver break out against the Owls?

There's no debating that Texas has talent in its receiving corps. Jordan Whittington was a five-star prospect in high school. Fellow starters Joshua Moore and Xavier Worthy were four-star recruits. But through two games, Moore and Worthy have combined for six catches. Whittington opened the season with a 113-yard game but had a big drop last week. Three of the six 100-yard performances Rice has allowed since the start of the 2019 season have been recorded by a player from Middle Tennessee.

Texas wide receiver Joshua Moore reaches for a pass that fell incomplete as Louisiana cornerback Mekhi Garner defends in the opener Sept. 4. The Longhorns are looking for a receiver to break out against Rice.

3. Will Texas look better against the run?

In the 40-21 loss at Arkansas, Texas was run over by the Razorbacks' ground game. The Longhorns allowed 333 yards, and it wasn't as if Texas had trouble stopping one player — six Razorbacks had at least one run that covered 19 yards. Texas will look for better results against Rice, which doesn't have a single player averaging more than 4 yards per carry.

4. Will Texas test its offensive depth in a meaningful way?

Through two games, Bijan Robinson has accounted for nearly 56% of UT's rushing yards. Of the team's 383 receiving yards, 320 belong to starters. The Longhorns have mostly used the same five offensive linemen with mixed results. Texas coach Steve Sarkisian didn't endorse many players when asked this week if any of his reserves had earned more playing time. But in a game in which Texas is heavily favored, should snaps of significance be available for more names on the depth chart?

5. As they try to bounce back, will the Horns avoid drama?

Rice has beaten Texas 21 times, but the Longhorns hold a 52-game edge in a series that dates back to 1914. The Longhorns own a 14-game winning streak over the Owls, and the last 10 games have been decided by double digits. In fact, Texas hasn't faced a deficit of more than a field goal in any of the last 12. Coming off its first loss, can Texas simply take care of business against a Rice team that's 7-25 under fourth-year coach Mike Bloomgren?

Danny Davis