Texas 58, Rice 0: After tasting ‘humble pie,’ Horns simply dominate overmatched Owls
With Big 12 play starting next week vs. Texas Tech, Sarkisian said ‘I’d imagine that Casey will kind of lead the charge.’
Everyone inside Texas' renovated Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Complex should keep the proper perspective in the wake of Saturday night’s 58-0 blowout win.
As good as it looked, remember it was Rice.
“I don’t think like that,” quarterback Casey Thompson said, however. “I know coach Sark doesn’t think like that. And the team doesn’t think like that.”
The Longhorns’ running game looked unstoppable. Bijan Robinson had 127 yards and scored three times, once from 62 yards practically untouched. Roschon Johnson had 112 yards on just three carries and raced 72 yards for his longest score in burnt orange.
“I didn’t expect it to pop like that,” Johnson said.
Well, Rice did come into the game ranked 105th nationally in run defense.
In his first career start, Thompson led the Horns to seven touchdowns in eight drives. He completed 15 of 18 passes for 164 yards and threw two touchdowns. Texas poured it on in the second half and finished with 620 total yards.
“You know what, there’s something about him when he gets in the game, the ball moves down the field,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said.
It was complete domination — against a team that is now 0-3.
“I’m on punt (coverage), and I didn’t have to go out there once,” linebacker DeMarvion Overshown said. “I’m always happy about that when I don’t have to run down no punts. Every time they get past the 30 or they’re putting the ball in the end zone, I’m slapping them on the butt. Good job! I didn’t have to go in on punt.”
The defense pitched a shutout, always something to brag about. The Horns knocked three opposing quarterbacks out of the game with physical play. Rice went 5-for-13 on third down and even got stopped at the Texas 7-yard line on the game’s final play.
Special teams bounced back, too. Keilan Robinson blocked a punt and the ball ricochet out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Texas (2-1) is now headed into its Big 12 opener against Texas Tech feeling good again. It was UT’s biggest win since a 56-0 drubbing of San Jose State on Sept. 9, 2017, the first game Sam Ehlinger started as a freshman.
The Arkansas loss is long gone, but it’s clear Sarkisian doesn’t want anyone to forget it.
“I think first and foremost when you have to kind of take a big bite out of the humble pie, like we had to last week, we challenged the guys,” Sarkisian said. “We had to own it and we had to get back to work.”
At this point, there is little doubt who is Texas’ long-term starting quarterback. Whether the social butterflies in the new south end zone club ever find their seats and actually appreciate Thompson is anyone’s guess. All those expensive-but-empty gray seats is a bad look on TV.
“I’d imagine that Casey will kind of lead the charge next week against Tech, and I don't see any difference where Hudson is probably going to get his opportunity to get in the game as well,” Sarkisian said. “So proud of both those guys.”
No matter who Sarkisian started at quarterback, he was likely to have success against Rice, especially when you have Bijan Robinson in the backfield.
Thompson looked confident on fourth-and-3 on Texas’ opening possession. He found freshman Xavier Worthy, made the connection and Worthy broke through traffic for an impressive 31-yard gain. Two plays later, Robinson ran straight in from five yards out in what became the game-winning score with 10:21 left in the first quarter.
The night’s only real hiccup came on the second drive when Thompson got smashed and threw a deep ball short. Rice’s Gabe Taylor made a relatively easy interception. But the defense held as Rice kicker Collin Riccitelli missed a 30-yard field goal.
Texas took over again, and Robinson had gains of two and six yards. Then Johnson subbed in and broke wide down the east sideline. The only thing that would’ve stopped him was Bevo himself in the southwest corner.
Texas led 14-0 and the rout was on. Keilan Robinson’s blocked punt got two more points. Thompson found Worthy again for a 14-yard gain, and then Bijan Robinson scored from seven yards out.
On second-and-1 from the Texas 38, Bijan Robinson broke through a massive hole and started sprinting north. The only Rice defender that could’ve stopped him took a bad angle and wound up escorting the Longhorn to the end zone. Texas led 30-0, and there was still 3:45 left in the second quarter.
Tight end Jared Wiley showed no problems with his shoulder while catching a 20-yard touchdown pass. Thompson’s 18-yard score to Worthy just before halftime will generate some interest in opposing film rooms. Thompson threw to Worthy’s back shoulder, where only the freshman could catch it.
It was a highlight moment for a receiver with seven catches for 88 yards. Worthy’s only getting started. His last high school season was essentially wiped out because of the pandemic. “I’m getting my flow back right now,” he said.
The second half started with Keilan Robinson lighting up the Rice defense for a 65-yard touchdown run that track aficionados would love.
From there, Texas led 51-0 and Sarkisian had seen enough. He sent Hudson Card into the game, same as he put Thompson in against Arkansas when the game was over, along with all the other backups.
“Through it all, the beauty of it was a lot of guys got to play that maybe we haven’t been able to see in the first couple of weeks,” Sarkisian said. “That experience is invaluable for those guys, all the way to the end to have (D.J.) Harris getting the sack to seal the shutout.”
Card completed just two of three passes for 29 yards as Texas was in full run-the-ball, run-the-clock mode.
The Horns did exactly what they were supposed to do against the Owls. Now, the games get exponentially harder and bigger as Big 12 play begins. There won’t be any freebies in the weeks ahead.
“Next week going into practice, we have to have another good week,” Thompson said. “We can’t underestimate any team from here on out. I think we figured that out last week.”