Rice Scares The Longhorns, But Can't Pull Off The Upset

Almost the scene of a big upset
Almost the scene of a big upset

The word coming out of Austin was that the Texas Longhorns were planning on stressing the running game this season, especially in their opening game against the Rice Owls.

And if Saturday's 34-17 win over Rice was any indication, then it's going to be another long season of Texas fans calling for the head of UT offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

Then again, UT fans calling for the head of Davis seems to be a yearly occurrence, so maybe things won't be that different this season.

If you're a fan of the Rice Owls, however, then things might look a bit different.

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Sure, the Owls lost, again, to the Horns. But the Horns, who have scored 51, 52, 58, and 52 points in their last four games against Rice, struggled to get 34 this game.

Then there's Rice leading 3-0 after one quarter of play, and having the chance of going up 6-3 early in the second. And the Owls defense stopped the vaunted Horns offense multiple times, including early on a fourth and goal from the one.

"We thought we went toe-to-toe with a giant and finished that game strong, and finished it hard," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "I'm really pleased how that freshman quarterback [Taylor McHargue] came out and played. He effectively moved the offense. It was great watching receivers block downfield and how hard the backs ran. But I think I was most pleased in our offensive line. All five of those guys moved some bodies today and opened some running lanes...and I thought our defensive line really did an effective job of stopping the run."

The Owls had their problems. They opened the game with a 15-play drive that started on their own 15-yard line and advanced as far the UT 13. For most of the drive, the Horns seemed helpless as about everything Rice tried, including a mixture of runs by Sam McGuffie and passes by McHargue, worked. Then there was a stupid penalty, and two bad plays which resulted in Rice having to settle on a 42-yard field goal.

The offense and special teams didn't help the defense much in the second period as the Horns were seemingly always in good field position, which more than accounts for how a Texas offense that struggled throughout the game was able to put up 24 points.

But Rice didn't give up and, just as time was about to expire to end the second quarter, receiver Randy Kitchens just happened to be in the right place at the right time as a pass intended for Vance McDonald was tipped by McDonald and a UT defender and landed in the arms of Kitchen who dragged another defender with him into the end zone to make the score 24-10 at the half (the play was first reviewed and upheld by the officiating crew as it appeared the Kitchens landed just short of the goal).

The Owls defense held the Horns to a touchdown in the third, and as the fourth quarter got under way, the Owls made a push into UT territory and, once again, had the Horn defense completely baffled until a personal foul at the UT 35 pushed the Owls back 15 yards and out of scoring range.

The Owls scored late, after recovering a fumble on a punt, to make it 34-17. But it was a case of too little, too late.

"Overall, this is a game that we can look at, that we can build on, we can improve," Bailiff said. 'But we're very pleased with the effort. Obviously you play these games to win."

Bailiff is right to be pleased with his team. The Horns are supposedly one of the best teams in the country, and the Owls refused to let the Horns run off and put the game away. Bailiff has been saying he was going to use this game to judge where his team is at as compared to last year, and from the way they stayed with UT, then the possibility is strong is that there are some C-USA teams that should be worried about their games with Rice this year.

As for the Horns, while it might be too soon to start with the shouts of "overrated," it might not be too soon to start with the whispers.


Bailiff chose Taylor McHargue to be his starting quarterback because he possessed the best feet of any of the three possible QBs. But while Bailiff was pleased with McHargue's play, he didn't commit to starting him for the team's next game, which is Saturday at North Texas. And though Bailiff didn't announce a starter to the media until game time, McHargue and his fellow QBs knew the answer earlier in the week. But McHargue claims that didn't change anything about practice. "The preparation was the same for all three of us," he said. "Even if we name a guy, all three of us will still prepare like the starter, so that really didn't change much."

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