Saturday evening the Texas Longhorns did their best to get their season back on track with a 42 to 28 victory over Rice. Texas head coach Charlie Strong made some major changes last week after the Horns opening season loss including starting freshman QB Jerrod Heard and having wide receiver coach Jay Norvell take over play calling duties. These changes proved to be successful for the Rice game as the Longhorns offensive output and scoring total increased significantly from their opening game loss to Notre Dame.
|3rd Down Eff||14-21||3-8|
|4th Down Eff||1-1||0-0|
|Yds Per Pass||5.8||11.6|
|Yds Per Rush||3.9||5.3|
KEY POINT IN THE GAME
When Longhorn LB Malik Jefferson recovered Owls QB Driphus Jacksons’ fumble and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown the game was safely in hand for the Longhorns. While Texas scored the games first 21 points Rice was able to close the gap before halftime scoring two TDs of their own. Texas opened the second half with a one drive in the form of QB Jerrod Heard throwing WR John Burt a 69 yard TD pass. Rice had already shown they could close the gap between the two teams and Jefferson’s recovery and return delivered a blow that Rice wouldn’t be able to recover from.
Video: Malik Jefferson's fumble return TD http://t.co/1GlIljRZdq
— ESPN Texas (@ESPNTexas) September 13, 2015
POSITIVES FOR TEXAS
Jerrod Heard – Heard threw the deep ball well finding Armanti Foreman for a 32 yard touchdown and John Burt for a 69 yard strike to start the 2nd half. In his first start Heard also rushed for 96 yards on 10 carries with a long of 35 yards on Texas’ opening drive. With his 216 total yards of offense Heard accounted for 78% of Texas’ 277 total yards. As Heard gets more comfortable on the field his performances and the Horns offensive production should increase.
Punt Returns – Texas punt returners Daje Johnson and Duke Thomas averaged an astounding 43.8 yards per return with Daje Johnson returning Rice’s second punt 85 yards for a TD. With a greatly shortened field the Texas offense was able to score 14 points on drives of 6 and 28 yards after long punt returns.
Video: Daje Johnson's 85-yard punt return TD http://t.co/J2gIFKrLwR
— Max Olson (@max_olson) September 13, 2015
NEGATIVES FOR TEXAS
The Defense – Texas’ defense continued to struggle on Saturday evening, giving up 462 yards and 28 points the week after giving up 527 yards and 30 points can not be reassuring to Texas fans. The yardage total against Rice should be especially disconcerting when you take into consideration the fact that Rice turned the ball over 5 times.
3rd Down Conversions – Through two games Texas ranks 125th out of 127 teams in FBS in 3rd down conversion and Saturday night didn’t do a ton to help that number. If you only look at Texas’ game against Rice they converted on three of eight attempts for a conversion percentage of 37.5% which would rank 73rd in the country. Texas will surely face tougher defenses this season and they’ll need to shore up their ability to convert on third down in order to stay in games.
TEXAS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jerrod Heard – The red shirt freshman worked with what the Rice defense gave him and executed on his longer throws. Heard didn’t have a huge stat line against Rice but he didn’t need to in order for Texas to win. In his first start Heard avoided turning the ball over which should make his coaches and Texas fans very happy.
WHAT THE WIN MEANS
Texas fans should be happy with the result of this game. The Longhorns beat a Rice team they were supposed to and they’re QB played well. It’s hard to say just how much we really know about this Texas team at this point. The Longhorn offense ranks 127th out of 128 FBS teams in total offense and 96th in scoring for FBS. Texas’ scoring defense should also concern Horns fans as they currently rank 105th in FBS and 115th in total defense. From the statistical point of view Texas still has problems on both sides of the ball. As the season goes on Texas fans have to hope that a larger sample size will show that Texas is better than the stats currently suggest.
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
Texas is now 72-21-1 versus Rice.
This was the first time that wide receiver coach Jay Norvell had called plays for an offense since 2007 when he was a member of the UCLA staff.
Rice is now 112-202-8 versus Big 12 teams all time.
Rice’s last victory versus Texas was in 1994 when both teams were still members of the Southwest Conference.
Rice’s 28 points scored against Texas were the most they’ve scored against the Longhorns since 1997.