Week 1 of the college football season kicked off with a bang as the Texas Longhorns took the field for the first time on Saturday afternoon against the Rice Owls. Despite a forecast of 100-degree temperature paired with 25% humidity in Austin, Texas fans showed up in numbers to cheer on their squad for their final season of Big 12 football. Sarkisian’s squad struggled early before flipping the script in the second half to the tune of a 37-10 win over Rice. With that said, here are my three thoughts on the game.
1. PASS-HEAVY LONGHORNS
While the Longhorns did reload at the running back position this offseason by snagging the top player in the class of 2023 with CJ Baxter, the losses of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson loomed for Texas in Game One. Steve Sarkisian elected to spring for a relatively even split in the game between rushing and passing, but when a big play was needed, Sark completely abandoned the rushing attack.
It’s important to note that both Baxter and Brooks were effective in moving the sticks against Rice, but when the team needed to find some tough yards on the ground, Texas was actually driven back by the Rice defensive line.
Quinn Ewers put on a solid performance against Rice after settling down in the second half, and while I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing for the Longhorns to air the football out, if the inefficiency in the run game shows up against Rice, I think it’s a safe bet to say it’ll show up again in Big 12 play.
2. HALFTIME SAVES LIVES
Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian chalked up the lack of efficiency on offense to miscommunication. If that is the case, Texas miscommunicated an awful lot in the first half. The team went 0-2 on fourth down, both being 4th-and-1 situations, and also got off to an 4-10 start on third down. While it’s more than fair to expect teams to struggle in Week 1 during the first game of the season, Texas was continually stopped on third and fourth down against a significantly inferior football team.
The Longhorns looked lightyears better in the second half after starting with three-straight touchdown drives, completely flipping the narrative from the first half. Quinn Ewers led the Longhorns down the field to three straight scores before being replaced by Malik Murphy in the third quarter. While the offense technically totaled more yards in the first half than the second half, the efficiency rate at which the Longhorns moved down the field allowed them to covert on third down and put up some points. Whether Steve Sarkisian called up Michael Jordan at halftime for some of his secret stuff or not, Texas came roaring back and gave fans even more hype for the upcoming season.
3. JOURNEYMAN DANIELS
Former West Virginia quarterback JT Daniels has had a rough go of things. Following stints at USC, Georgia, West Virginia, and now Rice, Daniels has struggled to live up to the hype given to him when coming out of high school. Daniels was listed as a five-star prospect by the 247Sports index back in the Class of 2018, ranking behind only Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Daniels has bounced around a lot through his collegiate career, as he now enters his sixth season of college football at Rice, Daniels finds himself in a tough spot after three consecutive disappointing stops.
Daniels was under relentless pressure from the Longhorns defense on Saturday afternoon, finishing his day off with an underwhelming stat line of 14-26 for 149 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions thrown. While Rice could become somewhat of a get-right point for the former five-star quarterback, JT Daniels’ journey has been an up-and-down ride through college athletics.