No. 5 Texas 35, Rice 13
AUSTIN, Texas -- With Texas, owner of the nation's leading rushing offense, hosting Rice, owner of the nation's leading rushing defense, something had to give at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
That something was the rushing defense, as the Longhorns, paced by the nation's leading ground game, overwhelmed the Owls, 35-13, in front of a sellout crowd of 82,931. With the win, Texas improves to 3-0 on the season, while Rice falls to 2-1 with the loss.
"I'm real happy with the win," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "We felt like the guys were ready to play and they played hard against a good football team. I can't remember when we've started that quickly."
Texas racked up 524 yards of total offense, including 339 yards on the ground against an Owls defense that had allowed a nation's best 7.5 rushing yards per game in Rice's wins over Houston and Hawaii. The Longhorns scored on its first four possessions of the game and have now outscored its three opponents 61-10 in first quarter play.
As usual, senior running back Cedric Benson led the Longhorn rushing attack, piling up 189 yards on 20 carries, his 18th career 100-yard rushing game. Sophomore quarterback Vince Young added 64 yards on eight carries, and was 11-for-18 through the air, for another 161 yards and three touchdowns.
"This is a building block and a steppingstone for us," said Benson. "The first and second offensive lines paved the way and the guys up front made it happen."
The Texas defense was equally impressive, as the Longhorns limited the Owls to 228 yards of offense, which came into the game averaging 357 yards per game. In the first half, Texas allowed only 84 yards of offense, 59 of which came on Rice's first possession. Senior linebacker Derrick Johnson racked up eight tackles, including three for losses.
"The offensive line played great, and Cedric and Vince both looked good," said Brown. "Defensively, we played great. We started off slow with Rice's wishbone, but I felt like we adjusted to the speed."
On the game's opening drive, Texas used a 58-yard run by Benson to set up its first score. Benson took the handoff on a draw play, cut through a gaping hole inside, before sliding outside down the left sideline where he raced until he was pushed out of bounds at the Rice 11.
Three plays later, Young threw a 10-yard strike to senior tight end Bo Scaife, who withstood a pair of hits from Owl defenders to hold on for the score, giving the Longhorns a 7-0 lead with 12:02 left in the first quarter.
Rice answered with a scoring drive of its own, moving 59 yards on nine plays, eight of which were on the ground. The Longhorn defense stiffened though, and the Owls settled for a 39-yard field goal by senior kicker Brennan Landry to pull to within 7-3 with 8:10 left in the first.
That would be as close as Rice would get in this one, as the Longhorns offense continued to march every time it had the ball, while the Texas defense began to match the offense in effectiveness.
On its second possession, Young led a nine-play, 59-yard drive with a pair of nifty runs on keepers that covered 32 yards. With 4:13 remaining in the quarter, Benson capped the drive by bulling in from the two, giving Texas a 14-3 lead.
The UT defense forced Rice into a three-and-out on the Owls' second series, and the Longhorn offense showed its appreciation by scoring on the ensuing possession in just two plays after taking over on its own 35.
On the first play of the drive, Benson exploded for his second lengthy run of the game. This time, the senior needed only a slight crease to slip through, before finding daylight outside, finally being tripped up 42 yards later at the Rice 22.
Young, using a play action fake, threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to streaking junior tight end David Thomas, and the UT lead grew to 21-3 with 1:23 still left in the first.
Rice picked up some momentum on the ensuing kickoff as sophomore Andre Downs returned the kickoff 52 yards into UT territory, before UT junior placekicker Richmond McGee saved a touchdown with an open field tackle at the Texas 46.
That Owl momentum was short-lived, as the Longhorns defense forced another three-and-out, giving the ball back to the UT offense, which would once again march down the field for a score.
The Longhorns moved 80 yards on 13 plays, 11 of which came on the ground, including the final play, a three-yard touchdown run on a fake field goal by senior holder Tony Jeffery. The score gave UT a 28-3 lead with 9:35 left in the second.
Rice would get its second field goal of the game, taking advantage of the first Longhorn turnover of the year, an interception by Rice senior defensive back Clifford Sparks on a pass by Young that was tipped by Owl senior defensive nose tackle Jeremy Calahan. Sparks' return gave Rice possession on the UT 23.
A pair of runs gave Rice a first down from just inside the Texas 10, but Rice was unable to find the end zone. A goal line stand by the UT defense coupled with an illegal procedure penalty on fourth-and-goal from the one forced Rice into settling for Landry's 23-yard field goal with just 18 seconds left before halftime, cutting the Texas lead to 28-6.
The Longhorns got off to another fast start in the second half, with its defense forcing another three-and-out on Rice's opening possession, and the Texas offense struck quickly. Young found Thomas (four catches, 90 yards, two touchdowns) on a crossing pattern in stride and the tight end raced into the end zone for a 49-yard touchdown, giving UT a 35-6 lead nearly three minutes into the second half.
The final score of the game came on 44-yard scamper on an option keeper by Rice senior quarterback Greg Henderson with just 2:21 left to play.