2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 1 - Rice at Texas
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Sept. 3 at Texas 34 … Rice 9
CFN Analysis: The 34 points might not seem like much, and it took way, WAY too long to put the game away, but this was a positive game for the Longhorns. No, the 13-of-23, 239-yard, one score performance from Garrett Gilbert didn’t help the idea that he simply might not be that special, but his receiving corps looked good and he spread the ball around well. If Gilbert isn’t the guy, then someone else has to step up. Case McCoy missed on both his passes, David Ash connected on his lone throw for two yards, and John Harris hit his only pass for a 36-yard touchdown to Jaxson Shipley. The real key was Malcolm Brown, who might not have busted out, but his 86 yards on 16 carries were promising. The defense was fine, but it wasn’t a brick wall, and overall the youth was a problem with several players figuring out what they were doing, but this wasn’t a bad opener going into the battle with BYU.
Rice didn’t exactly show off any firepower, but the running game was surprisingly effective against the Texas defense, running for 130 yards, and the line didn’t give up a sack. Going forward, with Purdue up next, Taylor McHargue has to start pushing the ball down the field after completing just 14-of-29 passes for 79 yards while doing nothing on third downs. Punter Kyle Martens had a terrific game averaging 48.6 yards per kick and putting two inside the 20, and he’s going to have to be a weapon all season long to help bail the offense out of jams. No, Texas wasn’t great, and it wasn’t back to being Texas again, but this week Rice had something to do with that.
(AP) AUSTIN, Texas -- Freshman Jaxon Shipley caught a touchdown pass on a trick play and Fozzy Whittaker scored twice in the fourth quarter as Texas shook off a slow start for a 34-9 season-opening win over Rice on Saturday night.
Shipley, the younger brother of Texas career receptions leader Jordan Shipley, put the Longhorns ahead 20-9 in the third on a pass from wide receiver John Harris.
Garrett Gilbert passed for 239 yards, with 115 going to Mike Davis in Texas' new offense under first-year coordinator Bryan Harsin. Coach Mack Brown overhauled his staff after the Longhorns went 5-7 and missed a bowl in 2010, Texas' first losing season since 1997.
Chris Boswell kicked three field goals for Rice, which has lost 40 of the last 41 meetings with Texas.
The win unveiled some new wrinkles in the Texas offense with some new and old names and faces. It was clunky at times, efficient at others.
Most important for the Longhorns was getting the win at home, where they were 2-5 in 2010.
Texas fans who last watched Jordan Shipley rip through defenses in 2009, heard Jaxon's name mentioned as one of the brightest stars of training camp. He didn't disappoint, wrestling the ball away from a defensive back for a touchdown that helped the Longhorns break open a close game.
The score came on a reverse pass where backup quarterback David Ash handed off to Whittaker, who tossed the ball to Harris to find Shipley in the end zone. Shipley took the ball away from Rice safety Paul Porras at the goal line.
Gilbert, scorned by many Texas fans after throwing 17 interceptions last season, did not have a turnover and showed a deft touch on his deep passes and his 26-yard fourth-quarter TD pass to Whittaker.
The Longhorns also unveiled a new wildcat formation that kept the Owls off guard near the end zone, and a tougher running game that was able to grind out 229 yards. Freshman tailback Malcolm Brown came on late and finished with a game-high 86 yards on 16 carries.
The defense, under new coordinator Manny Diaz, was solid, giving up 224 yards and keeping the Owls out of the end zone.
Then again, all of that came against Rice, a team that Texas routinely lines up for an early-season pounding.
The Longhorns offense showed it still has a way to go. Penalties, sacks and early problems finishing drives with touchdowns made it clear the transition to Harsin after 13 seasons under former coordinator Greg Davis will take some time getting used to.
Rice kept the game close through most of three quarters on the leg of Boswell, who booted field goals of 42, 49 and 26 yards. His last pulled the Owls within 13-9 before Texas finally created some breathing room with Shipley's touchdown.
Tyler Smith led Rice with 67 yards on 10 carries.
Gilbert, who had to win a four-way battle to keep his starting job in training camp, was solid if not spectacular against the Owls. He connected with Davis for completions of 56 and 53 yards. The first set up a first-half field goal. The second came during a 99-yard drive that Whittaker finished with a 7-yard TD run for a 27-9 Texas lead. Gilbert also scrambled 22 yards early in the game to set up another field goal.
Rice sacked Gilbert twice in a row on the first drive of the third, drawing a smattering of boos from the home crowd of 101,000 that was still waiting to see Texas crank up a well-oiled offensive machine.
Texas responded with a 72-yard drive for its second touchdown on the pass from Harris to Shipley.
Rice (0-0) at Texas (0-0) Sept. 3, 8:00, Longhorn Network
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Here’s The Deal … Since the end of last season, Texas has reshuffled its staff, fielded a million questions about the 2010 implosion and defended the formation of the Longhorn Network. Mercifully, it’s time to get back on the field. After suffering through their first losing season since 1997, the ‘Horns welcome the clean slate that comes with a season opener. The program will begin the year with modest expectations compared to the Big 12 elite, a rarity in Austin, looking to rebound quick enough to make last fall a distant memory. Rice has faced in-state UT 40 times … and won once, testament to how lopsided this series has been over the years. However, the Owls have slightly more hope for the momentous upset than in recent campaigns. Not only is mighty Texas attempting to regroup from a 5-7 flop, but Rice earned some confidence with back-to-back wins to close out 2010. And the program returns enough core players on both sides of the ball for it to believe it can battle its way back to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Why Rice Might Win: While the Longhorns will represent their stiffest defensive test of the year, the Owls feel they have the offensive weaponry to keep the chains moving. Surrounding gifted dual-threat QB Taylor McHargue will be a combination of speed in the backfield and size in the receiving corps. RB Sam McGuffie is one of the most versatile playmakers in Conference USA, and the combination of tight ends and wideouts, such as Luke Willson and Vance McDonald, is capable of creating match up headaches for the green Texas corners. The key will be McHargue, an exciting sophomore athlete already drawing comparisons to former Rice star Chase Clement.
Why Texas Might Win: While the strength of the Longhorns will be the defense, on this day, the offense will get a chance to shine. Sure, the ‘Horns sputtered a year ago and have myriad questions entering 2011, but a visit from Rice affords them a chance to flex their muscles for a change. The Owls perennially have one of the nation’s weakest defenses, and this fall doesn’t figure to be much different. It’s a good thing, too, because Texas has a new offensive coordinator in Bryan Harsin, an unsettled quarterback situation and one of the Big 12’s shockingly average lines. Rice will be an ideal opponent to garner some confidence for the passers and get much-needed reps for rookie backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron.
What To Watch Out For: Whoever gets the ball from Mack Brown, out of junior Garrett Gilbert, sophomore Case McCoy, redshirt freshman Connor Wood and fast-rising rookie David Ash, will need to know where No. 13 is at all times. The best news on the Rice D is the return of lineman Scott Solomon, a high-motor pass rusher, with a future at the next level. He makes everyone around him want to play better. New Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has inherited a wealth of talent, particularly along the defensive line. The Owls are liable to shoved around by tackle Kheeston Randall and ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat.
What Will Happen: In previous years, Texas might have taken a lesser opponent, such as Rice, lightly and gone through the motions for the first 30 minutes. Not this season. After what the ‘Horns have gone through over the past 12 months, they’re going to treat the opener as if it was a bowl game. With new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and competition raging on offense, UT will play with intensity until the final gun. While the offense will remain a work-in-progress, it’ll crank out enough long drives to never be challenged by David Bailiff’s club.
CFN Prediction: Texas 39 … Rice 7
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Texas -23 O/U: 55.5
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